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Tue 15th Nov 2022 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

More than fifth of pubs, restaurants and cafes slash hours over energy bill rises: More than a fifth of UK pubs, restaurants and cafes have cut their hours over the past three months in a bid to cut energy costs, according to new analysis by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The analysis showed food and drink service firms were more likely than any other sector to cut trading to deal with mammoth increases in energy bills. It found more than one in 20 businesses in the sector (6%) planned to stop trading for two or more additional days a week in the month. The same percentage of sector businesses said they had already done so in the last three months, which was among the highest of any group. They were also the most likely to reduce trading hours, even if they were still operating for the same number of days (21%), according to the ONS’ business Insights and conditions survey. The hospitality sector as a whole was also the most likely to say energy costs were making them consider raising their own prices in November. Survey data also suggested manufacturers are under significant strain from energy prices, which could have an impact on hospitality. Around one in ten businesses across the hospitality industry said they had reduced or simplified goods and services (or planned to) in a bid to cut energy costs. Hospitality was also the most likely industry to have taken or planned some sort of action to reduce energy spending. Around two in five (41%) of sector businesses said they expected their prices to increase in November, while the figure was 36% among accommodation businesses. When asked about turnover expectations for November, 70% of accommodation businesses (currently trading) predicted lower turnover. That was the second-highest response of any business group and more than triple the average of 21%. For food and drink service businesses, it was more than double the figure across all industries, at 46%. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “These figures highlight the extreme pressure that extortionate energy costs continue to have on our pubs and brewers. Many have already taken drastic measures, reducing trading hours or even days on which they open and we’re not even into the coldest months yet. This Thursday (17 November), we desperately need the chancellor to provide relief to the cost of doing business, but we also need clarity and certainty for our pubs and brewers that energy support will continue beyond the initial six months.”

Industry News:

Propel launches Las Vegas study tour: Propel is heading to Las Vegas in 2023 for a study tour, which has opened for bookings. The visit takes place between Saturday, 25 March and Tuesday, 28 March and will be overseen by Myles Doran, managing director of Hospitality Inc, and former commercial director of Revolution Bars Group. After successful trips in the past to Chicago and New York, Propel is returning to Las Vegas. The trip features a jam-packed itinerary, including a variety of restaurant, bar and nightclub tours, where delegates can explore and learn about the hottest concepts in the city. The group will be staying at Resorts World, the first new addition to the Las Vegas Strip in ten years. The trip will also provide two casino study tours and two hosted dinners. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to gain valuable insight into the trends and concepts that are shaping Las Vegas as it bounces back from the covid pandemic, which will no doubt provide fresh ideas and inspiration for delegates.” The cost is £3,295 plus VAT. For more information or to book, email or call 07710 783485.
Fifth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database to feature more than 10,000 new words of content, released on Friday: The fifth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (18 November) at midday, will feature more than 10,000 new words of content, taking it to more than 75,000 words. It will provide insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details of 170 companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK. Several overseas-inspired food concepts are among the new franchisors featured. Among them is Stickbug, a Canada-based Korean cuisine concept founded by former Esquires Coffee managing director Doug Williamson, which is looking to expand here and grow to 100 UK stores by 2032. Also featured is all-day Italian casual dining concept Ci Gusto, founded in Italy in 2011 by Dario Rabboni and expanding since to more than 20 countries. My Greek Fat Wrap, founded in 2018 as a local food market stall, in Street, Somerset and run by the Rammos family, is also featured. So too is Monterey Jack’s, an American-style restaurant chain with nine sites, and a tenth, due to open this autumn, to be its first franchise opening. Premium subscribers also receive access to The New Openings Database; the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group. 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 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. They 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.
British staycation boom over as bookings dry up: Holiday let booking prices are sliding as the cost-of-living crisis and return of international travel bring an end to the British “staycation” boom. The average rate booked on a UK holiday let fell by 5% year-on-year in September to £157 per night, according to data company AirDNA, which was £13 per night less than in September 2021. Travel restrictions meant in August 2021, the average price per night was £176 – a 32% jump compared with August 2019. But holidaymakers are now cutting back on spending, while those that can afford it can now travel abroad again. Amanda Stecker, who runs Unique Cotswold Cottages as well as Holiday Letology, an advice service for holiday let investors, told The Telegraph: “My clients are finding it harder to achieve the kind of income levels they were achieving this time last year and they are having to hold their nerve that bookings will come in eventually.” Guests are also booking later and hoping for last minute deals, Stecker added. James Maughan, of Group Accommodation, a website for large self-catering properties, said UK enquiry volumes spiked significantly last year as lockdowns eased, with inquiries up 150% compared with pre-covid, but have now fallen back to just above the pre-pandemic level, with demand shifting overseas. He added: “We have seen strong year-on-year growth in traffic to our overseas properties in 2022 compared with 2021. Clients are booking properties much later and last minute, something that was uncommon for larger holiday cottages in the past.”
Former Greggs chairman calls for more taxes for wealthy: Former Greggs chairman Ian Gregg has called for more taxes for the wealthy, ahead of chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on Thursday (14 November). Gregg, who retired as chairman of the food-to-go operator in 2002, has previously said the “astonishing increase” in top earnings in Britain needs to be curbed, in his book Bread: The Story of Greggs. “While the new chancellor has reversed most of the mini-Budget, we are now being presented with a false choice about the kind of decisions he has to make ahead of the autumn statement: either everyone must feel further economic pain through tax rises, or we must all shoulder unmanageable cuts to our public services,” Gregg wrote in The Guardian. “This is not a choice that needs to be made. Before considering tax rises for all, or any cuts to public services, Hunt should look to those who can well afford it to make a greater contribution. Some of us in the UK can afford tax rises – but none of us can afford spending cuts, which result in further hardship and more unrest in society. It is time for wealthy people to make a greater contribution via the tax system, though not at the extreme levels of the Callaghan government in the late 1970s, which led to an exodus of talent from the UK and was a disincentive to ambition. A combination of modest reforms – such as an increase in the very top rates of income tax, equalising capital gains with income tax, revising estate duty, national insurance reform to include investment income, and a 1-2% wealth tax on those with more than £10m – could raise tens of billions of pounds. That may not solve everything, but it would make a significant contribution and introduce a much needed and long overdue element of fairness to the system.” 
Bosses demand immigration reform: The CBI has told the government it risks another decade without growth if ministers do not pursue reforms to immigration and planning policy to kick-start the economy. The Times reported it said “business fears the government is not willing to make tough political choices to get growth going in 2023”. A survey from Accenture, the professional services provider, and S&P Global, the analytics company, showed British business confidence fell to its lowest level in 13 years in October. The bosses’ lobby group said it was likely to be “damaging in the short and long term” if chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s tax and spending plans were not accompanied by supply side reforms. Tony Danker, its director-general, said: “We need many more pro-growth policies for our economy if we’re to avoid a decade of no growth. A desperate lack of workers is inflating wages and stopping firms growing. Our planning rules allow local officials to hamper major projects we need. Our regulatory regime doesn’t do enough to incentivise investment and innovation and it is far more important to change that than partisan efforts to simply repeal EU laws, which won’t make any positive difference to most firms.” The CBI has called for several measures to be included in Hunt’s autumn statement on Thursday (17 November), including changes to the shortage occupation list and to the way big planning decisions are made. 
‘Poor quality options’ sees growth in plant-based meat slow down: Too many poor quality plant-based options are to blame for fading interest in meat alternatives, the boss of Quorn has said, as growth in the industry comes to a near halt. Marco Bertacca, chief executive of the meat alternative business, said the boom had run out of steam because too many products were launched that were “not delicious”. Sales of plant-based alternatives grew by 40% in 2020 and 14% last year, with a boom in new businesses developing lab-grown proteins, and a flurry of companies launching their own “bleeding burgers”, which use ingredients such as beetroot juice to replicate the blood in a burger. However, sales in the sector grew just 2.5% in the eight months to the end of August, with Bertacca saying it was the case that “not everything was good, not everything was delicious, not all the textures worked”. He told The Telegraph: “The taste is still fundamental when it comes to food. We need to find a way to steer the conversation away from a very superficial conversation about reproducing the meat process, and instead look at what is the nutritional value that you get when you eat what you eat.”
Workers being driven back to job market as early retirees re-evaluate finances: Workers are being driven back to the jobs market by the cost-of-living crisis, with early retirees being forced to re-evaluate their finances. Recruitment agency Reed said it has seen an 8% boost in applications by jobseekers since the start of September, which chairman James Reed said has been partly spurred by people coming out of retirement, and a potential fall in the number of available jobs. “If you did a spreadsheet in 2020 doing some calculations about potentially retiring early, your numbers would look pretty different than they would now,” Reed told The Telegraph. “I can see that for a lot of people, that might not have been a sustainable choice. Jobs have been going down in our data, but applications are up. That’s a reversal as well because applications have been going down during the jobs boom overall. That would suggest people who haven’t been looking are now looking.” He warned there was a danger of the jobs boom turning into a “two-year jobs slump” as hiring slows sharply, and that there are already signs of a turning point in the jobs market. Data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation found permanent hires fell for the first time in almost two years in October, while vacancies have dipped from record highs. City economists expect the recession to push unemployment to just under 5% by 2024, up from the current near 50-year low of 3.5%.
Fears over shortages in UK egg supplies: Fears have arisen that shortages are beginning to materialise in the British egg industry. Some estimates suggest Britain’s egg production could plunge by eight million next year, while others said the UK could run out of eggs by Christmas, reports The Telegraph. Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA), said: “We’re at the brink now in terms of there being shortages.” Daniel Karlsson, of Swedish bakery Bageriet, in central London, said: “Our supplier asked us to go for pasteurised eggs from Europe rather than free-range ones from Britain if we need to order a lot. I prefer fresh eggs because they’re much more stable in mixes and it’s nicer to buy local.” Estimates from BFREPA suggest a third of farmers have cut back on the size of their flock of hens after not being able to cover costs, while a quarter have stopped production either temporarily or permanently.
Henry Dimbleby among speakers at thefoodpeople’s ninth annual food and beverage trend summit taking place next week: Industry influencers and operators from across the globe will be gathering under one virtual “roof” for thefoodpeople’s ninth annual food and beverage trend summit, taking place on Tuesday, 22 November. The event will aim to “make sense” of food and drink trends for 2023-24. Speakers will include Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of natural food brand Leon and author of the National Food Strategy, who will look at the challenges and opportunities for reform within the UK’s food system; and Gurdeep Loyal, who will give a perspective on food and cultural appropriation, with recipes from his new book, “Mother Tongue: Flavours of a Second Generation”. Access to the summit is free of charge. To find out more and register, click here.

Recognise the Music week to feature 32 live gigs across 16 London pubs: Recognise the Music week will feature 32 live gigs across 16 London pub, starting on Thursday (17 November). Hosted by campaign partners Fuller’s and Livelyhood, and powered by GigRealm, it will take run until Saturday, 19 November. Having launched in July, the aim of Recognise the Music is both to get artists and songwriters paid with greater accuracy, and to bridge the gap that can exist between premises who play music and the performing rights organisations they pay for the right to do so. Tom Brady, managing director of GigRealm, said: “Music is an integral part of the hospitality sector. Whether recorded or live, music really sets the tone and is a great way for businesses to connect with their customers. We’re excited to play our part and show how technology can be used to easily host unforgettable events while ensuring those who perform are paid fairly and accurately receive the royalties from license fees venues pay.” 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a health and wellness facility in London that is looking for a head of learning and development. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will lead the planning, implementation and communication of the learning, development and engagement strategy. Reporting to the chief HR officer, the role partners closely with London leaders and key stakeholders in the global business to support the organisation’s people development challenges and establish learning interventions that meets these needs. In addition, the role oversees a comprehensive employee engagement strategy.” The salary for the position is up to £80,000. For more information, email

Company News:

Phil Peters steps down as MD of Happy Face Pizza: Phil Peters has stepped down as managing director of Happy Face Pizza, the Neapolitan pizza concept from the founders of Canteen and Spiritland, Propel understands. The business appointed Peters, formerly of Zing Zing and Kitopi UK, as its first managing director last summer, as it looked to expand. Peters spent three years leading Zing Zing, the London-based Chinese takeout and delivery chain, before spending more than a year as managing director of Kitopi, the delivery-only kitchen operator. He has left Happy Face to become head of supply chain services at Young Foodies. Happy Face Pizza was launched in King’s Cross at the end of 2018 by Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake, founders of comfort food concept Canteen, and music consultant Paul Noble. Earlier this year it opened sites in Victoria and Brent Cross, with plans to open a further two sites in London neighbourhood locations this year. Lake previously told Propel the business planned to build an estate of ten sites over the next three years, with a focus on neighbourhood locations in the capital.
Popeyes UK sets out next round of openings, including first drive-thru: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, has announced its next raft of openings in the UK, including what is set to be its first drive-thru in the country, in Rotherham. The brand, which is led in the UK by Tom Crowley, has so far opened seven restaurants across the country and four delivery kitchens in Greater London. The business, which recently opened in Ealing, expects to open 20 restaurants in 2023. The brand – which is gearing up to open in Reading, Croydon and Cambridge – plans to launch sites in Rotherham, Cardiff and Glasgow early next year. The Rotherham site will be at Parkgate Shopping Park. The company reported a record-breaking Oxford opening day in September and said its first foray into the Midlands in Birmingham in October saw similar success levels, with its Nottingham opening breaking the records that Oxford previously set and, in Derby, customers queued from 10.30pm the night before launch. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, said: “There is a pattern emerging now at all our openings. It’s fantastic to see how well we are being received right across the UK. As well as the new high street restaurants and delivery kitchens, we’re also excited to announce in 2023, we’ll be opening a raft of drive-thru locations, with the first likely to be in Rotherham. Consumer demand has been high for a drive-thru since we landed in the UK, so it feels like a real milestone for us. We’ve carefully planned our site acquisition strategy in line with where we’re seeing most demand from our customers, and it’s great to see it coming to life. We’re working at pace currently on opening our Liverpool, Brighton and Leicester branches before the end of the year – but we always have one eye on the future and are looking forward to continuing sharing our expansion plans.” 
Merlin Entertainments appoints new CEO: Merlin Entertainments has appointed Scott O’Neil as its new chief executive. O’Neil will be responsible for overseeing the business operations and global growth for Merlin across its 147 attractions in 24 countries. O’Neil’s appointment comes following outgoing chief executive’s Nick Varney’s decision to retire after 23 years. O’Neil was most recently chief executive for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a portfolio of sports, entertainment, and investment properties, where he oversaw more than $2bn growth in enterprise value, from $415m to $2.5bn. Roland Hernandez, chair of Merlin Entertainments, said: “Scott has significant experience in the entertainment industry, a proven track-record of delivering business transformation, and the vision and ambition to lead Merlin through the next exciting stages of its global development. I would like to reiterate the group's thanks to Nick for his outstanding leadership of Merlin over the last 23 years. Merlin is one of the best leisure businesses in the world thanks to his leadership, passion, and talent.” O’Neil added: “There is an extraordinarily talented management team, a driven, ambitious, hardworking, team centric, can-do culture, and a board that is committed and focused on growth and driving value. We are actively building and searching for new attractions and sites. We are fortunate in that we are not constrained to a single studio or content pipeline and are seeking additional brand partners to redefine the attractions business. We will also aggressively look to expand our offerings and experiences in our current attractions.”
The Cheese Bar launches £400,000 crowdfunding campaign as it targets further expansion in London: The Cheese Bar, the London restaurant business, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £400,000 towards further expansion in the capital. The business, which was founded by Mathew Carver, currently operates three restaurants - Pick & Cheese, The Cheese Bar and The Cheese Barge, plus a shop. The crowdfunding campaign, which is running through Seedrs, is offering 4.48% equity and gives the business a pre-money valuation of £8.5m. The company plans to open two further sites under its conveyor-belt concept Pick & Cheese in 2023. It is currently in advanced stages for a new London site with the aim of opening the first in spring next year. It said since opening in 2019, Pick & Cheese has served more than 113,000 guests, achieved almost £2.5m in sales and in excess of £343,000 in site profit from just 35 seats. Its menu features a changing selection of 25 British cheeses and charcuterie, priced by plate colour and delivered by a 50-foot long conveyor. Each comes with a unique condiment/pairing – some familiar and “some meant to push you out of your comfort zone”.
Oxygen acquires regional trampoline operator as part of expansion plans, set to roll out adult ‘lounge’ concept with enhanced F&B offer: Indoor family activity brand Oxygen has acquired regional trampoline operator RedKangaroo as part of its expansion plans, and is set to roll out an adult “lounge” concept with an enhanced food and beverage offer. RedKangaroo is Oxygen’s third acquisition in nine months, following the purchase of trampoline parks in Wilmslow and Rayleigh earlier this year, and takes its portfolio to nine locations, including The O2, Croydon, Derby and Acton. Oxygen will continue to operate RedKangaroo’s sites in Reading, Nottingham and Coventry under their current brand, with a view to integrating them into the Oxygen brand in the months ahead. Oxygen was acquired by Literacy Capital in July 2021, providing capital to support executive chair David Hill and managing director Stephen Wilson’s growth plans. Wilson said: “With Literacy Capital, we have backers working with us as our concept moves on what people expect from trampoline parks, with an emphasis on a people-led customer experience focused on the entire visit, not just the activities and equipment. These factors are driving our expansion, with the acquisition of RedKangaroo a significant milestone in our strategy.” Paul Wrightman, founder and managing director of RedKangaroo, added: “I am proud of everything RedKangaroo has achieved over the last five years. While I am sad to leave behind my fantastic team, I am excited for what comes next.” Oxygen has also invested £1m in each of its sites at Wilmslow and Acton to introduce enhanced facilities for adults, with a “lounge” concept “providing best-in-class food and beverage and enhanced tech”. It said the concepts are proving popular, with sales at both sites significantly up compared with the same trading periods a year ago, and Oxygen plans to roll out the new concept to the rest of its parks in the coming months.
EasyHotel aims to more than double to 100 sites by 2026 as trading recovers with full-year sales of £62m: EasyHotel is aiming to more than double in size to 100 hotels by 2026, after a recovery in trading. The company has 42 hotels in ten countries and is opening a 230-room franchise in the centre of Madrid by the end of the year. In an update for the year to the end of September, EasyHotel said trading had been strong, with total sales of £62m and occupancy of between 85% and 90% over the past two months. It said its low price “continues to resonate strongly with customers”, enabling it to win market share and to lift revpar by 37% on its owned and leased estate in the year, ahead of the 10% growth of its competitors. Chief executive Karim Malak said the group had benefited from “an element of trading down from four-star hotels” by consumers. “We have a couple of targets in our sights but nothing material right now,” he said. “Our investors are very keen to expand the brand and will invest in deals. We’ve established a foothold on the continent, but we don’t have enough hotels in the UK.” Britain is EasyHotel’s biggest market, with a presence in 20 locations. In total, it has 18 franchised hotels and 24 owned or leased. The group was floated in 2014 but in 2020 was taken private and is now 79% by ICAMAP Investments and Ivanhoé Cambridge. Last month, Easyhotel completed the €145m acquisition of eight hotels in the Benelux region that were franchised to the brand.
Verdant Leisure sees turnover soar but forecasts drop in Ebitda and profits in 2023 due to end of ‘staycation’ boom: Holiday park operator Verdant Leisure saw turnover soar in the year ending 28 February 2022, but has forecast a drop in Ebitda and profits in 2023 due to the end of the “staycation” boom. Verdant, which was acquired by Pears Partnership Capital in September 2021 after previously being backed by Palatine Private Equity, reported turnover of £45,576,000, up from £28,472,000 in 2021. Ebitda was also up from £9,661,000 in 2021 to £13,464,000, but pre-tax profit was down from £7,107,000 in 2021 to £6,307,000. It received £200,000 in Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants and £900,000 in insurance payments following a fire at Coldingham Bay in January 2021. With demand for UK holidays in the year “highly inflated”, the group generated 12,654 holiday bookings, 72% higher than in 2021 and 9% higher than pre-pandemic 2020. It also sold 583 holiday homes, compared with 365 in 2021 and 412 in 2020 (growing from 2,332 to 2,475), “mostly due to new customers entering the holiday home ownership market for the first time”. The company said: “FY23 will see a reduction in Ebitda and profit before tax over FY22 because of the return to ‘normal’ levels of demand. Demand for UK holidays and UK holiday homes was exceptional in FY21 and FY22 outside of the lockdown periods. We expect demand to settle down. However, in the year to date in FY23, while volume of holiday home sales and holiday sales are both down on FY22, we are seeing significant demand over pre-pandemic levels in FY20.” The group also expects to be hit by a £1.5m rise in utility costs but invested £4.5m in improving its parks, compared with £4.9m in 2021, and has £7.9m in capital expenditure projects lined up for 2023. Since the year-end, the group has acquired Golden Coast Holiday Village and Cleavewood Park in north Devon, plus Perthsire sites River Lodge Holiday Park and Ballintuim Caravan Park, along with land on which to build a new site, River Tay Leisure Park. 
Gordon Ramsay Restaurants appoints Lucy Cole as sales director: Lucy Cole has joined Gordon Ramsay Restaurants as its new sales director. Cole previously spent almost four years as head of sales at New World Trading Company, which operates The Botanist concept. She also spent more than five years at Revolution Bars Group as a national sales manager. She replaces Tony Rimbault who joined the Richard Caring-backed Caprice Holdings and The Ivy Collection as sales director last month, after two years as sales director at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants. Propel revealed last month that chef Gordon Ramsay had restructured the management team behind his restaurants group, with the appointment of three new managing directors - Alyson Park, Mat Horvath, and Stephen Evans.
Innspired Leisure closes Nottingham and Birmingham sites for cocktail bar concept Olivia’s: Innspired Leisure has closed the Nottingham and Birmingham sites for its cocktail bar concept Olivia’s. The Nottingham venue in Chapel Bar opened in 2019 offering cocktails, champagne, pizza, brunch and small plates. Olivia’s was taking bookings for Christmas parties as recently as 15 September, according to its Facebook page. FHP Property Consultants are marketing the vacated premises as a bar/restaurant or co-working space. Olivia’s Birmingham branch has also closed, according to its website, leaving sites remaining in Sheffield and Leicester.
Cake Box on track for full year despite drop in first-half profits: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has said it was on track to meet expectations for the full year even as it posted a drop in first-half profit amid cost increases. In the six months to 30 September, pre-tax profit fell 45.1% to £2m, while revenue edged up 2.1% to £16.8m. Meanwhile, Ebitda fell 32.4% to £2.8m. Cake Box said the decline in profit reflects the previously reported challenging trading environment in the first half, cost pressures and increased investment in the business. On a like-for-like basis, franchise store sales dipped 1.1% during the period, against "very strong" comparatives. Chief executive Sukh Chamdal said: “Although revenue increased, trading in the first half of the period was against a very strong comparative period last year, and was impacted by exceptionally hot weather that went on for a far longer period than normal. In addition, higher levels of international travel in July and August, were coupled with the rising cost of living and inflation. Once the summer holiday period finished, we began to see a recovery in our sales, alongside the continued growth of our franchise store estate. Encouragingly, the improvement in trading seen towards the end of the half year has continued into October. While the board remains cautious in light of the uncertain economic climate and the unpredictability in consumer spending, the group's current trading is on track to achieve full-year market expectations.” Since the summer, franchise sales are up 4.6% on a like-for-like basis, it said, while online sales were 6.8% higher on the year in October.
Team behind Liverpool restaurant open new bar in city: The team behind Liverpool all-day dining restaurant The Castle Townhouse has opened a new bar in the city. The 250-capacity Seel St Venue has opened at 84-86 Seel Street, offering themed party nights including student nights on Thursdays, reggae and Latino-inspired Fridays, old school hip-hop and R&B Saturdays and gin and juice Sundays. A list of classic cocktails will be available alongside some in-house mixes, and the venue is also putting on cocktail masterclasses. The Castle Townhouse was opened in Castle Street by Jason McNeill in 2016. Seel St Venue is located on the same road of one of McNeill’s former venues, the circus-themed bar and restaurant Circo, which was based at 13-21 Seel Street before closing in 2019.

Former Cub head chef set to open first permanent restaurant for Hot 4 U concept: Matthew Scott, former head chef of experimental food waste restaurant Cub, is set to open a first permanent site for his lockdown concept Hot 4 U. Scott has partnered with Charlie Carr, of Wingnut Wines, which has a bar nearby, for Papi, which is due to open in Mentmore Terrace in Hackney, east London, in early 2023. It will offer “the dynamic, bold cooking of Hot 4 U, combined with Carr’s selection of under-represented natural wine”, with a focus on regeneratively reared meat, sustainable seafood and creative cooking across a menu of snacks, small plates, and larger sharing dishes. Split across two floors, it will feature a ground floor dining room for 28 and a cocktail bar beneath for 14, which is available for private hire, as well as an open kitchen with stools at the counter. Scott launched Hot 4 U as a delivery service during lockdown while still head chef at Cub, which closed in the summer of 2020. It has also operated as several pop-ups and as residencies in pubs. While Papi will give a nod to Hot 4 U classics like garum pom bears and the whisky bone marrow luge, it will be “a slightly more grown-up affair, offering refined, elegant fun for all.” Scott said: “I’m approaching the food at Papi as based on my days at Cub – a menu that is synergetic with the seasons with sustainability at its very core – but with a Hot 4 U facelift. The relationships we share with our producers will define the dishes available, but the tone in which this is delivered will have fun at the very forefront.”

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