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Thu 17th Nov 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Food prices rise by a fifth in just 12 months: The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index once again rose during October to hit 19.9% – a ninth consecutive month of double-digit inflation. As in previous months, oil and fats led the way, rising almost 50% year-on-year. Prices in the milk, cheese and eggs category fell slightly in the month, but still increased by more than 30% compared with October 2021. Only one category within the index is not in double digit-inflation, with sugar, jam and syrups the outlier at 9.6%. Core products for hospitality such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit are now all in the 16% to 19% range year-on-year. Food in total climbed a further 1.3% month-on-month during October and is now running at 21% inflation year-on-year. There were some signs during October, however, that price-influencing factors occurring upstream of delivery are beginning to normalise, with oil prices, exchange rates and commodity markets all showing increasing stability. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “The coming months will be extremely tough for hospitality operators. They will be caught in the squeeze between rapidly rising costs of operation, and diners seeking even more value as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. Riding out this storm requires investment in supply chain management, as in the hands of skilled professionals, price increases can and should be avoided and mitigated.” James Ashurst, client director at CGA by NielsenIQ, added: “Soaring costs are making trading exceptionally challenging across the supply chain, and eye-watering inflation in several key categories will hit sales and margins again over the crucial Christmas season. While it’s encouraging to see some signs of inflationary respite as we move into 2023, it is clear our sector needs targeted government support to get through these unprecedented challenges.”
 

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive videos and slides from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference: Premium subscribers are to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference. The videos will be sent on Wednesday, 30 November, at 9am. They will include Tim Shield, partner at John Gaunt & Partners; James Hacon, founder of Think Hospitality; Greg Ilsen, co-founder of SushiDog; Burgerism co-founder Mark Murphy; Bob & Berts co-founder Colin McClean; James Lipscombe, founder of The Chesterford Group; Roy Ellis, founder of Mission Mars; Alex Reilley, co-founder and chairman of Loungers; Nick Crossley, chief executive of Turtle Bay; Christian Haas, managing director UK & Ireland at YO!; and Stephen Owens, managing director – pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co. Andrew Ball, of Haysmacintyre, leads a panel discussion on the sector investment landscape with serial sector investor Luke Johnson; Darrel Connell, of Imbiba; Steve Kenee, former chief investment officer at Oakman Inns and Restaurants; and Robin Rowland, of TriSpan. Meanwhile, Mark Stretton talks to Stephen Owens, managing director – pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co; Jon Lake, managing director of Chopstix; Julian Reilly, property and franchise development director at Creams; and Popeyes property director Tom Byng about the property landscape. Premium subscribers will also receive the latest edition of the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database on Tuesday (22 November), at midday. 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 and feature more than 75,000 words of content. 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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.
 
Premier Foods boss – more customers opting to stay in rather than eat out: The owner of Mr Kipling, Sharwood's and Bisto has reported its sales went up 6.2% in the six months to 1 October – suggesting more of its customers are opting to stay in rather than eat out. Premier Foods said its sales topped £47m in the period, as people tried to save money by cooking for themselves. The company is set to launch a campaign encouraging people to cook and prepare affordable meals at home for just £1 a serving, although it has also had to put its prices up to counter rising costs. Chief executive Alex Whitehouse said: “With people starting to eat out less, they often find the best restaurant in town is at home, where you can make nutritious and tasty meals more affordably.”
 
Kerridge – we need to capture the heart, the soul and the imagination of people to get them into this industry: Chef Tom Kerridge has said the hospitality sector needs to “capture the heart, the soul and the imagination of people” to get them into the industry. Speaking in the latest video to support the Hospitality Rising campaign, Kerridge said: “We need to capture the heart, the soul, the imagination of people to get into this industry. People don't do 90 to 100-hour weeks anymore, it’s so connected through social media now that you can be seeing things around the world. Kids coming through – 17, 18 or 19 years old that want to get into the industry, it’s about experience here and now. They want to be part of excitement, fun and all of these sorts of things, and hospitality offers that in droves.” Kerridge said the recruitment crisis was affecting his business “the same as everywhere else”. He said: “We are short staffed in a number of positions, which means that you look at it and have to remodel and restructure where you can keep the standard the same without having a drop of service. There’s a standard level that we need to hit. Now how do we hit that with maybe less staff? We have to look at timings, booking schedules. In some places we dropped from a seven-day week to a five-day week. How do we create and keep those experiences the guests have at the same level they expect while having fewer members of staff? Well, it is about shorter choice, or maybe shorter opening times.” Kerridge said hospitality is such a “robust, strong, fluid and creative industry that bounces back constantly” and it “will always be here”. He added: “If every single hospitality business went bust tomorrow and shut next week, somebody else will reopen it because we all want to go out and eat, drink, to have fun. We all want to connect with human beings.”
 
NTIA – autumn statement ‘last chance’ to support night-time economy businesses: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said the autumn statement is the “last chance” to support night-time economy businesses. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will today (Thursday, 17 November) set out how the UK will plug a £60bn gap in its finances, with a series of tax rises and spending cuts expected. The NTIA has, in recent weeks, warned a third of nightclubs are set to shut by the end of 2022, and more than half of night-time venues have said they will go bust within three months when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends in April. “In the last few weeks leading up to this Budget, we have been approached by hundreds of business owners frightened for their future, with overbearing costs, most on the verge of collapse,” said NTIA chief executive Michael Kill. “The government pre-Budget rhetoric is attempting to manage business expectations, but resolute in its drive towards increasing taxes, something that will decimate the sector we represent. The chancellor must consider the impact of inaction, the subsequent loss of businesses and jobs and, ultimately, the void in tax from this sector back to the Treasury. This is the fourth Budget in as many months and is the last chance to get this right. The fate of thousands of businesses are relying on a balanced, considered Budget that will allow this sector some financial headroom to ride the short-term crisis.”
 
Mayor’s tourism campaign provides £289m boost to London: A tourism campaign led by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to encourage visitors back to the capital has helped bring in £289m additional spending, according to new figures. The mayor expanded his Let’s Do London campaign earlier this year to reach international audiences and encourage even more people to enjoy everything London has to offer following the impact of the pandemic. The campaign has delivered a return on investment of £28 for every £1 spent, bringing in an additional £289m spending to London. It is also estimated the campaign will bring an additional 600,000 visitors to London from other parts of the UK, Germany, France and the USA. The campaign has included spending £7m to encourage international tourists back to London, £2m to attract overnight UK visitors and £1m for reaching out to Londoners. The campaign will continue to promote the capital in the coming months, while continuing to support the sector with the mayor’s London 2030 Tourism Vision, which sets out a “resilient, inclusive and sustainable future for London”. Khan said: “Our hospitality, leisure and culture sectors are world-leading and a major driver of our economy, but they have had an incredibly difficult few years. I will continue to bang the drum for our capital and highlight our unparalleled offer to visitors from all round the world.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “London is one of the most vibrant cities on earth and it’s fantastic to see the success of the mayor’s campaign, bringing much needed visitors back through the doors of our amazing hospitality venues. The sector is so critical to London, generating £36bn for the economy and employing half a million people.”
 
Three in ten over-40s still go on a regular night out once a month: Three in ten over-40s still regularly go on a night out once a month, according to new research. The survey conducted by The Night Owl, which has nightclubs in Birmingham and London, also found more than 63% would want to “playback” a night out from their younger days. Most participants agreed the most suitable time to end the night is on or before midnight. Some 45% of people were calling last orders at 11pm with 29% hailing a cab for midnight. As a result, late-night venues are shifting their time parameters and tweaking their offerings to accommodate an older audience. DJ, Annie Mac, made headlines recently by launching a club night for “Cinderella’s”, opening at 7pm and ending at midnight. Arith Liyanage, chief executive and founder of The Night Owl, said: “I think the increasing demand for over-40s clubbing is not so much a nostalgic turning back of time but more a joyous celebration of their middle years. People are living longer, generally in better health and, by middle age, often see a relaxation in parental responsibilities. Added to that, the age group often has more disposable income than other sections of society.”

Mapal acquires Norwegian software firm: Hospitality technology provider Mapal Group has acquired Norwegian software service company Savvie. Founded by Jessica Li and Puteri Myrasandri in 2020, Savvie specialises in using artificial intelligence to provide sales forecasting and recommendations. Li said: “We are thrilled to join the passionate team at Mapal in working towards our shared vision of helping businesses make better and smarter decisions with the data and information they have on hand, and all in one place.” The acquisition is the latest in a series of eight investments by Mapal in hospitality technologies, with a view to creating the sector’s most powerful integrated back of house multi-site operating system. Jorge Lurueña, founder and chief executive of Mapal, added: “The team at Savvie have developed one of the most incredible automatic sales forecasting engines for the hospitality sector that we have seen worldwide. We see it as a game-changer when plugged into our existing suite. The acquisition also adds a further footprint in Norway, extending our growing business in Scandinavia.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an event and catering company in Suffolk that is looking for a senior sales manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “Your role will be to achieve the targeted level of sales at one of its contract venues alongside managing the sales team at other venues nationally. Your responsibilities will include day-to-day management of the sales team to ensure it is successfully converting incoming enquiries; create proactive sales and marketing plans to generate new enquiries; handle the full sales process from initial enquiry to contract, working closely with the events and operations team; conduct site visits to the highest standard, offering full knowledge of the venue; maintain regular contact with past bookers to generate repeat business; and create detailed reports on sales figures versus targets.” The salary for the position is up to £50,000 plus bonus uncapped over target. For more information, email emma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Former Swingers partner plans multiple venue roll-out of new gameshow experience: Former Swingers partner Josh Ford is planning a multiple venue roll-out of his new gameshow experience, which is set to launch in central London next spring. As Propel reported last month, Gameshow Studios will see guests become contestants for a two-hour fully immersive gameshow experience, complete with a backstage Green Room cocktail bar. Negotiations are still ongoing for the preferred venue, with contracts set to be signed shortly for what Ford hopes will be the first of many. “We’re looking at this first venue as a proof of concept and a flagship for us in London, and there’s no reason why it cannot roll out into multiple venues,” Ford, who is also behind concepts including Time Run and Sherlock The Game Is Now, told Propel. “Our business model is to constantly be recreating exciting gameshows so every couple of months there will be a new one that can go into our prime-time evening and weekend slots. If we do end up with multiple venues, we’d be looking to launch the same gameshow at the same time in the other venues – whether in Manchester, London, New York or wherever else. We’re looking at a 9,000 square-foot floor space – we need really high ceilings and space for lighting rigs and a large stage – that will hold up to 250 people in 40 game booths. We also want to bring in prizes – some ridiculous, some quite valuable. We’re in the process of building our first gameshow to launch with, but we plan to have multiple gameshows so customers can come back, and tailor them to different markets. We’re working on eight different rounds, each with clear references to TV gameshows. We made a decision to not seek out any specific gameshow IP as we’re not looking to replicate any, but the brief was really to capture that inclusive, energetic, positive Saturday night TV gameshow feeling and create that as an experience. I’ve worked in this sector a long time and I’m extremely confident people will enjoy the experience – it’s about making that first venue as brilliant as it can be.” A premium food and beverage offering will also be an essential part of the experience, and Gameshow Studios’ one will include a variety of plant-based offerings. “Like a lot of people, I eat a lot less meat these days and am more aware of where food is sourced from,” said Ford. “People are being more discerning with how they spend their money, so we must make sure everything we’re putting out is high quality. For really good experiences, it’s really important rather than a secondary concern.”. 
 
Mollie’s appoints head of property acquisitions: Mollie’s, the Soho House-developed concept, has appointed Iain Stackhouse as head of property acquisitions. Stackhouse will lead the next big moves for Mollie’s to support its growth plans, adding to its locations in Oxfordshire, Bristol and earmarked for 2023, its first city centre property in Manchester. A qualified chartered surveyor with more than 25 years’ experience, Stackhouse has joined from Village Hotels, where he built a pipeline of acquisitions and delivered strong portfolio expansion. Stackhouse will bring his expansive knowledge of the UK property market to aid Mollie’s with the rollout of its roadside motel-diner and inner-city concepts. He has also worked for The Co-Operative Group and De Vere Group. At Mollie’s, Stackhouse will be responsible for the high-volume expansion of its trading portfolio from conception to opening, while leading and growing the business alongside the senior leadership team. Darren Sweetland, managing director of Mollie’s, said: “This appointment comes at an exciting stage in our growth, and I’m delighted Iain is coming on board to support us on that journey and further strengthen our senior leadership team.” Stackhouse added: “The roadside properties in Bristol and Oxfordshire have been really well received and provide a great platform for our ambitions to elevate the brand by opening in similar locations and through our city centre concept. We are looking forward to the launch of Mollie’s Manchester and are excited for what 2023 and beyond will bring!”

Morty & Bob’s to open in Kensal Rise next month, plans further expansion at two sites per year: Cafe and bar concept Morty & Bob’s, which is backed by Edition Capital, has confirmed it will open its new Kensal Rise site next month, and plans further expansion at a rate of two sites per year. Propel revealed in June that the concept, which is the brainchild of Charlie Phillips, was planning to open a 48-cover site at 118 College Road. It will now open on 5 December, a third launch for the brand following King’s Cross in 2018 and Shepherd’s Bush in 2019, and will feature two outdoor, covered and heated terraces. The opening will mark the start of Morty & Bob’s expansion plans, targeting established neighbourhood destinations and local communities across London and beyond, with the aim of opening two sites a year nationally. Charlie Phillips, owner of Morty & Bob’s said: “We’re looking forward to reaching a new demographic in the bustling, vibrant and cool neighbourhood area of Kensal Rise. We’ve already been accepted wholeheartedly by the local Kensal Rise community, which has been amazing.” Morty & Bob’s offers locally sourced fresh seasonal ingredients and American-influenced dishes, while new to Kensal Rise will be a range of lighter dishes targeted at regulars to enjoy daily. As well as bagels, burgers, grain bowls and schnitzel, it will offer cocktails, beers from Camden Brewery and wine from Berkmann Wine Cellars.
 
Punch Pubs launches new cafe, bar and co-working space: Punch Pubs, the Clive Chesser-led business, has launched FAIM, a new cafe, bar and co-working space alongside its The Square Tavern site in London’s Euston Square. The company describes FAIM as “a cosy, creative space to suit our new hybrid working lifestyles”. Robin Belither, managing director of management partnerships at Punch Pubs, said: “We're proud to unveil FAIM, a unique all-day space in the heart of bustling Euston. Through this fabulous investment in a previously unused space, we've created what we believe to be an exciting day-to-night venue. Management partners Faye Kewell and Petar Ivanisevic are determined to put FAIM on the map as the best venue in Euston for business, pleasure or both!”
 
McDonald’s former largest UK franchisee opens first Itsu site: Atul Pathak, formerly the UK’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, has opened the first site under his new franchise agreement with Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, in Wembley. The new site  is set to be the “first of many” Pathak expects to open over the next 12 months. Propel revealed in August that Itsu had partnered with Pathak, who had set up a new vehicle, IVI Holdings, to oversee the new franchise agreement. At the time, Pathak said he was looking forward to “exploring new opportunities that reflect the changes we are seeing amongst Generation Z and Millennial consumers”. Propel revealed in April that McDonald’s had taken control of its largest UK franchisee, the Appt Corporation, after completing a deal to buy out founder Pathak’s shares. The Appt Corporation was founded in 2003 by Pathak and grew to 43 sites, which stretched from north to west London as well as into Berkshire.  

The Coffee House aiming to more than double estate by 2025: North west independent coffee shop The Coffee House is aiming to more than double its 12-strong estate over the next three years. The company, established by Chris and Stephen Shelmerdine in July 2011, said it’s on course to open its 25th store by 2025. It opened its 12th store in August, an 80-cover cafe in a former Game store in the corner of Victoria Square and Newport Street in Bolton. “We are so thankful to be in business and to be sharing our coffee shop experience within our local communities,” said Chris Shelmerdine. The Coffee House also has sites in Sale, Partington, Widnes, Huyton, Northwich, Bootle, Runcorn, Warrington, Lymm, St Helens and Winsford.
 
Mojo Bars to take on former Red’s True Barbecue site in Liverpool: Voodoo Doll, the company behind the Mojo Bars business, is to open a second site in Liverpool, next year. The company, which currently operates six Mojo sites in Leeds, Liverpool (Back Berry Street), Manchester, Sheffield, Harrogate and Nottingham, will open on the former Red’s True Barbecue site in Liverpool’s Hanover Street, which connects the Liverpool ONE scheme to the wider city. Earlier this year, Voodoo Doll, which is led by Martin Greenhow, announced it was planning to open sites in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool. The Newcastle bar is set to be located in Newgate Street, while Mojo Edinburgh is expected in June 2023 and will be housed in the city’s Rose Street. 
 
Adagio Hotels reports turnover returning to pre-pandemic levels, committed to further UK expansion: Adagio Hotels UK, which develops, operates and franchises long-stay hotel properties in the UK, has reported turnover returning to pre-pandemic levels for the year ending 31 December 2021, and said it is committed to further UK expansion. Turnover was £10,581,000 compared with £4,428,000 in 2020, and approaching the figure for the last full year before the pandemic, £12,362,000 in 2019. Its pre-tax losses narrowed slightly, from £2,632,000 in 2021 to £2,616,000. In 2019, it made a pre-tax profit of £544,000. The company received £110,000 in government grants (2020: £237,000) and no dividends were paid (2020: zero). The company grew from four to six managed UK hotels, and from 480 to 676 apartments, during the year, and retained a franchise hotel, which opened in Leicester in January 2020. Occupancy rate in the managed hotels rose from 34% to 58%, with revpar up from £23 to £47. For the franchised hotel, both occupancy rate (54% to 52%) and revpar (£28 to £25) were down slightly. In 2019, occupancy rates for the managed hotels was 77% and revpar £65, while the franchised hotel had not yet opened. “The company is committed to a further expansion of the Adagio hotel brand in the UK,” it said. “There are various other aparthotels in the UK expected to open in the coming years.”
 
The Alchemist confirms plans to make international debut next year, in Berlin: Bar and restaurant group The Alchemist has confirmed it will make its international debut next year, in Berlin, Germany. As revealed by Propel in July, the Simon Potts-led company will open in the redeveloped Potsdamer Platz scheme in partnership with Brookfield Properties, next spring. The new 5,887 square-foot space will feature 212 covers internally and a further 50 external covers. The company said The Alchemist Berlin will feature “futuristic, divine influences from astrology and the cosmos”. Potts said: “This is a very exciting step for The Alchemist, into the vibrant city of Berlin. We’ve been working on this venture for nearly three years and believe our concept will fit in brilliantly with the wider culture and community in Berlin. We’re delighted to be a small part of the reimagining of The Playce at Potsdamer Platz, and will be working hard to create an inclusive, engaging and experiential venue – where all are welcome.” It will be joined at the scheme by The Big Easy, the London barbecue concept, which will also be making its international debut. 

Gary Neville unveils new British brasserie to replace Tom Kerridge's Bull and Bear: Gary Neville has revealed that a “British brasserie” run by brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield will replace the restaurant run by chef Tom Kerridge at the luxury Manchester city centre hotel he owns with Ryan Giggs. Last week, it was announced that Michelin-starred chef Kerridge would be closing The Bull & Bear at Stock Exchange Hotel in January. The space will be taken over by the team behind Manchester bars Schofield's Bar, Atomeca and Sterling, who will open what will be its first restaurant in February. The Schofield brothers opened a cocktail bar at the hotel earlier this summer. The new concept, which will be led by head chef Joshua Reed-Cooper, is described as a “British Brasserie, with touches of elegance from continental Europe, all served with homely and comforting flavours from the UK”. Joe Schofield said: “We aim to create one of the best restaurants in the North of England, right here at Stock Exchange Hotel which is a natural next step in our hospitality career.” Neville added: “Since meeting the group two years ago our vision, values, and brands have aligned, and we are delighted they have chosen Stock Exchange Hotel to open their first restaurant concept.”
 
The Greggs Foundation launches free education programme on food security and sustainability: The Greggs Foundation, the independent grant-making charity associated with the food-to-go operator, has partnered with food education charity, Rethink Food, to launch a free education programme. It said the programme has the potential to teach up to 50,000 UK schoolchildren the importance of food security and sustainability. The foundation said the partnership will play an important role in furthering the commitments of The Greggs Pledge to build stronger, healthier communities, support schoolchildren and grow the Greggs breakfast clubs programme. Rethink Food has pledged to deliver ten million hours of education in line with these goals for children and young people by 2030. As part of its new partnership agreement, The Greggs Foundation will contribute one million hours of education to the programme. Available free of charge to all 770 Greggs breakfast club schools, Agents of Change is a year-long course spread out across the school year and contains 24 training modules or “missions”, delivered each half-term via an online platform. The “missions” will be enhanced by a variety of different resources, from interactive videos and downloadable activities to the delivery of a school backpack for each child, sticker sheets and “secret agent” materials.
 
Richard Corrigan opens new Dublin restaurant: Chef Richard Corrigan has launched a new all-day restaurant in Dublin, The Park Café, at 1 Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridge. Its menu is driven by the produce from Corrigan’s country estate, Virginia Park Lodge, located an hour away in County Cavan. The restaurant focuses on the best of Irish produce, with dishes such as roasted Oxford “Sandy & Brown” piglet served with crab apple and pickled mustard seeds, roasted roots and jalapeño; and Bentley’s fish pie, featuring smoked haddock, prawns and Clare Island salmon. Downstairs is a 16-seater seafood counter, and outdoors is a 40-cover all-weather terrace with a retractable roof. On the first floor, The Park Bar serves small plates and a drinks list of classic cocktails and beer, and an 80-bin wine offering featuring bottles from Corrigan’s own cellar. A breakfast offering, launching in the new year, will include homemade bread and pastries alongside dishes using produce from Virginia Park Lodge, such as muffins with devilled eggs, lentils and kale. Corrigan said: “I’m excited to bring bucket loads of the Corrigan warmth and hospitality to Shelbourne Road, and to showcase some of the finest Irish produce, most of which we grow at Virginia Park Lodge.”
 
Greene King supports customers to buy cask with confidence: Brewer and retailer Greene King has launched a new support pledge, the Cask Iron Guarantee, that gives free-trade customers the ability to claim a refund or credit for expired cask ale. The pledge has been introduced by the company to build more confidence in the cask ale category and provide more support for customers. Available with Greene King cask ale only, free-trade customers signed up to the guarantee will be entitled to a full refund for un-broached volume and a credit for remaining volume on broached casks that go out of date ahead of them being sold through. Jamie Shipperley, head of customer marketing at Greene King, said: “We are proud of the beer we brew, but we are also incredibly proud of the promise we are making to our free-trade customers and the cask ale sector.” 
 
London hotel Strand Palace introduces package of staff support including £500 bonus: London hotel Strand Palace has introduced a bespoke package of support to help staff members navigate the cost-of-living crisis starting with a £500 bonus in time for Christmas. The multi-faceted package ranges from financial to medical aid plus significant investments in staff facilities, well-being and incentives. It includes providing complimentary meals while on duty; running a reward and recognition scheme, awarded by colleagues and guests, including a £250 employee of the month gift e-voucher and £10 e-vouchers that can be used at all supermarkets or for leisure activities; offering a healthcare cash back plan and complimentary use of the gym at the hotel. The hotel is also refurbishing the back of house areas including a new restaurant and a new inclusive multi-purpose well-being zone. Matthew Beard, cluster managing director at Strand Palace, said: “While a fast cash injection will be a welcome addition before the festive period and very well deserved based on recent hotel performance, our approach goes far beyond this to improve the day-to-day life of our team on a longer-term basis.” The 788-bedroom hotel in the Strand employs more than 200 staff. 
 
Frankie & Benny’s makes Christmas meal pledge: Frankie & Benny’s, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, has launched its Christmas menu with a pledge that for every turkey dinner sold, it will donate a festive meal to someone in need. The campaign is in partnership with Feeding Britain, a charity with a vision of a UK where no one goes hungry. Frankie & Benny’s yuletide stuffed turkey with apple and cranberries served with carrots batons, broccolini, spring onion mash, crispy parsnip, gravy and crisp bacon costs £16.90. The company said: “For just £1, Feeding Britain can provide a meal for those whose need is great so for every yuletide stuffed turkey dinner sold, Frankie & Benny’s will donate £1 to Feeding Britain.” Sasha Storey, Frankie & Benny’s head of brand, said: “Frankie & Benny’s is a restaurant brand with families at its core, so it’s really important for us we support other families in need at this time of year.” Frankie & Benny’s Christmas menu is available until Tuesday, 3 January.

Club Mexicana opens in Spitalfields: Club Mexicana, the vegan restaurant concept that offers Mexican and Californian-inspired street food, has opened its new site in London’s Spitalfields. The Edition Capital-backed business has opened on the former HotBox site in Commercial Street for its third site. As previously reported, the concept, which started out as a sold-out supper club in east London in 2014, confirmed in September that it would be opening a 70-seater restaurant in the listed building. The restaurant offers a bigger plant-powered menu than ever before, including new additions such as the beef-based Birria Tacos and seafood-based Tofish & Chips Tacos. Founder Meriel Armitage said: “Our new restaurant in Spitalfields is a natural next step up from our first brick-and-mortar site in Kingly Court, as it allows us to go bigger than ever before and flex our taco-making muscles, serving up even more dishes and drinks with our unique, colourful Club Mexicana character.”

Just Eat for Business expands sustainable packaging partnership: Just Eat for Business has expanded its partnership with sustainable packaging business ClubZero. The expansion will see more restaurants and cafes in the capital provide a convenient packaging return scheme to London businesses. Customers will have a choice to opt in for reusable packaging when placing an order through the Just Eat for Business platform, and having enjoyed their meals, the packaging will be collected by ClubZero bikes to be washed and redistributed for reuse. The expansion follows ClubZero’s pilot with Just Eat in 2021. Matt Ephgrave, managing director at Just Eat for Business, said: “Minimising our environmental impact has always been at the heart of our business. We’re thrilled to be part of the journey to making the food delivery industry more environmentally friendly and are looking forward to seeing more and more businesses adopt the same approach.”

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