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Mon 21st Nov 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit returns for 2023: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its fifth edition, and tickets are now on sale. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 24 and 25 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The conference will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, diversification of revenue streams and how brands are adapting to the new normal. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. More than 50 industry and agency leaders take to the stage over two days, representing brands including Gail's Bakery, Hawksmoor, Burger King UK, Loungers, The Alchemist, Hall & Woodhouse, BrewDog, East Coast Concepts, Press Up Hospitality Group, Krispy Kreme, Mission Mars, Inception Group, New World Trading Company, MJMK, Caprice Holdings, Hakkasan, Gusto Italian, Tattu Restaurants, Red Engine, Vapiano, The Cocktail Club, Hilton, Elior, Lollipop, Flat Earth Pizza, Lego Restaurants, KellyDeli, Cornish Bakery, Chotto Matte, Ping Pong, Nobu, Searcy's and Six by Nico. Day one themes will be consumer and sector trends, start-ups, concepts and creativity and digital evolution, while day two focuses on purpose and responsible business, strategies for growth and communication and culture. Tickets for operators for the two days are £600 plus VAT and £350 plus VAT for one day. Tickets for suppliers are £950 plus VAT for the two days and £525 plus VAT for one day. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on jo.charity@propelinfo.com
 

Industry News:

Fifth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database released tomorrow: The fifth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database will be sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Tuesday, 22 November) at midday, featuring more than 75,000 words of content and 170 companies. It will provide insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details of companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK. Among the new entries is halal burger and pizza concept Mak Halal, founded in Birmingham in 2016 and which has since grown to eight restaurants. Also featured is Canadian bakery cafe concept Cinnzeo, founded in 1987, which has grown to 18 domestic sites and 29 overseas, and is now targeting the UK market. 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. Premium subscribers are also 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. 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.

Restaurant insolvencies happening at faster rate than during covid: Restaurant company insolvencies are happening at a faster rate than during covid, according to new research by audit, tax, and advisory firm Mazars. They have increased 59% over the past year, jumping from 984 in 2020-21 to 1,567 in 2021-22. In the last three months, the number of restaurant companies becoming insolvent increased by 15% to 453, up from 395 the previous quarter. Restaurants across the UK have been dealing with the highest level of inflation since 1981 and a sharp slowdown in consumer spending. As well as increasing food and energy costs, restaurants have been hit by shortages of labour, particularly for skilled roles such as chefs, which has pushed up staff costs. Some restaurants have already revealed they will be cutting their trading hours in order to save on the cost of energy. Rebecca Dacre, partner at Mazars, said: “Insolvencies of restaurant businesses are now happening at a far faster rate than during covid. It is a very toxic mix of rising input costs, sharply rising finance costs and weak demand. Most restauranteurs have not seen this combination of negative factors before. The Christmas trading period is usually a bumper period for hospitality businesses. However, restaurants will be bracing themselves for a very tough winter and many face a real battle to keep afloat. There's a certainty of further insolvencies if they don't receive much more support from the government, but the chances of the government fully turning on the taps is low.”
  
Angela Hartnett urges operators to give industry a 'voice' by backing Hospitality Rising amidst fears industry could be 'killed' by energy crisis: Chef Angela Hartnett has urged operators to give the industry a “voice” by backing Hospitality Rising amidst fears the industry could be ‘killed’ by the energy crisis. Harnett is throwing throw her weight behind the “Rise Fast, Work Young” initiative, launched in a bid to help fill the industry's 400,000 vacancies. Speaking in a new Hospitality Rising podcast, the Michelin-starred chef urged leaders across the sector to support the movement. She said: “We bring billions of pounds into the Exchequer, and as Robin Hutson always said, ‘we're a tap that can be switched on’. We're a great industry, I think we're very welcoming, and I don't think I'd want to do anything else. I support Hospitality Rising because this is about bringing our industry together as one united body. I think it's important for others to be involved in Hospitality Rising because then you have a say, it's like anything – you can't make a comment if you don't have a vote.” Figures from KAM, which is also supporting the Hospitality Rising effort, show only one in five people would consider a hospitality job, and 42% of current employees are thinking about leaving the sector. Hartnett added: “I think there is staff out there. People can recruit, but I think what the big issue is in lots of places is staff retention. I was talking to an operator the other day, and she said we've recruited 50% and we've lost 50%, and that's where your problem is. More than anything it's the energy crisis that's going to kill businesses, but we can show everybody what a brilliant industry it is, what a great career you'll have, and what hospitality is all about.”

Pubs blame home working for slump in Christmas party bookings: Pubs have warned the number of December bookings this year is a fifth lower than pre-pandemic levels, amid signs the traditional Christmas knees-up is losing popularity in offices. The Telegraph reported the drop in bookings has been blamed on rising numbers of staff working from home, the cost-of-living crisis and changing attitudes to alcohol, with today’s young people consuming far less than previous generations. In a normal year, British pubs take in around £2.3bn in December – about one tenth of their annual income and their most profitable month by far – according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). But a survey of 5,000 pubs last week found festive bookings are down by 20% compared with what was normal before the pandemic. A BBPA spokesman said it was likely due to a combination of factors, including employers being more cost-conscious due to recession fears, consumers cutting spending in the face of rising mortgage and energy bills and increased numbers of staff who now work remotely at many white-collar firms. Despite this, Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said pubs across the country are “decorating their venues, transforming their menus, lighting their fires and readying their pubs to provide a warm welcome in hope of a Christmas boost”. By comparison, separate analysis by UKHospitality said December bookings for the wider hospitality sector were only slightly below 2019 levels. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said bookings had fallen by 20% last year when the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant prompted a harsh new wave of restrictions, rising to 50% in the last two weeks of the month. But she said of this year: “We are cautiously optimistic. Bookings are coming in, but they tend to come in a little later these days than they did before the pandemic. That might partly reflect concerns about the cost of living, and the other factor we are seeing in London is the threat of rolling train strikes, which are making people more cautious.” 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a well-established wine business in London that is looking for a sales director/managing director. The company, which is looking at developing and growing its concept, is searching for someone with a strong food and beverage/hospitality background to step into this role. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This will be your chance to develop your career into a managing director role. You will be working closely with the owner and the senior team. Your role will include steering the business into its next chapter of growth, while overseeing all areas of the business and report to the founder.” The salary is up to £100,000. For more information, email stuart@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Camerons Brewery places majority of leased and tenanted estate on market: North east brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery has placed the majority of its 43-strong franchise/leased and tenanted estate on the market, Propel has learned. It is understood the Chris Soley-led business has put a 31-strong package of pubs based in the north east of England up for sale, which comprises 27 leased and tenanted sites and four operated under franchise agreements. It is believed CBRE has been instructed to market the portfolio and that proceeds from any sale or sales would be used by Camerons to reinvest in and expand its circa 35-strong managed division, which includes the Head of Steam brand. The pubs in the package are understood to include the Top House in Stanley, the Mill House in Hartlepool, the Lambton Arms in South Shields and the King's Head in Bishops Auckland. It is thought the package of sites would appeal to operators such as Admiral Taverns, the Aprirose-backed Blackrose Pubs, north-west pub operator Inglenook Inns & Taverns and the Gerry Carroll-led Valiant Pub Company. Camerons Brewery declined to comment.

Former Young’s CEO Patrick Dardis joins Brasserie Bar Co board: Patrick Dardis, who stepped down as chief executive of London pub retailer Young’s earlier this summer, has joined Brasserie Bar Co, the White Brasseries owner, as a non-executive director, Propel has learned. Dardis, who stepped down from Young’s in July, spent 20 years at the pub company, 19 of which were on the board of the business and the last six years as its chief executive. Before joining Young’s in 2002, he held various roles at Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (now Marston’s), Guinness Brewing, Whitbread and Courage. The Richard Ferrier-led Brasserie Bar Co currently operates 33 sites across its Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie pub formats. The business received investment from private equity fund Alchemy Partners in February and is now fully funded to grow to 70 sites over the next three to five years. The company opened its latest pub on the former Maison Sax, at Ashley Cross, Poole, under its old name, The Britannia, last month. It is understood to be in talks on several more pub sites.

Floozie Cookies sets out international expansion plans: Floozie, the all-vegan stuffed cookie concept founded by Kimberly Lin in 2020, plans to expand internationally and in the UK under a franchise model, Propel has learned. The concept, which is backed by sector consultancy firm TGP International, was founded in 2020 by Lin, who earned her stripes working in some of the best kitchens in London including Claridge’s, Corinthia and Dominique Ansel. Floozie is now planning international expansion after launching in London’s Covent Garden and Expo 2020 Dubai, resulting in four locations and a temporary pop-up at Harrods in London. The company said: “Now, the brand will expand officially to the US with franchise opportunities available in all 50 states, in the UK there are conversations with potential franchisees in the north of the UK, and new locations have already been signed in Kuwait and Egypt, in partnership with Global Access For Food, and will reopen at Expo City in Dubai.” Floozie offers a menu of 100% vegan stuffed cookies in five signature flavours that have “amassed a cult following of cookie connoisseurs and plant-based cookie lovers”. Lin said: “While Floozie started out as a passion project during the pandemic, it’s been nothing short of incredible to see the brand take on a life of its own with international expansions and a loyal following of vegan cookie fans behind it. I’m thrilled to continue growing our footprint working with new partners internationally, and continue developing the brand.” Floozie’s US expansion will also mark a homecoming for Lin, who is originally from North America.

Buzzworks launches cash referral scheme to attract new talent ahead of South Queensferry opening: Scottish restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings has introduced a cash incentive employee bonus scheme for any members of the public who refer a friend to join its soon to open Thirty Knots pub and restaurant in South Queensferry. Designed to unearth new talent and bolster company culture, Buzzworks' initiative could see the referrer walking away with up to £750 for a successful recommendation. Nicola Watt, head of people, said: “We are delighted to open our refer a friend scheme for a limited time only. We believe this will provide a great incentive for attracting new team members and showcasing the development that's possible when working at Buzzworks. With our growing portfolio of east coast hospitality venues, we are committed to investing in new recruits and believe in remunerating those who have taken the time to share their recommendations with us.” Alongside the soon-to-open Thirty Knots, Buzzworks operates 14 venues across Scotland alongside the three-strong Herringbone business it acquired earlier this year.

Jollibee-backed bubble tea concept Milksha launches UK flagship site: Taiwanese bubble tea brand Milksha has made its debut in the UK, with an opening in London’s Chinatown. The business, which was founded by Kevin Lin and has more than 300 sites globally, has opened at 65 Shaftesbury Avenue, with plans to launch further sites in the UK. Propel understands the business has lined up an opening on the former Coffee Republic site in Head Street, Colchester. Last year, Jollibee Foods said it had signed a deal to buy a 51% stake in bubble tea company Milkshop International, the parent company of Milksha. It said the acquisition would provide it with the “opportunity to participate in this fast-growing beverage category and together with Milkshop’s founder, grow the Milksha brand globally”. On its UK launch, Milksha said: “We are passionate bubble tea drinkers and we care about what we consume. ‘Healthy’ is not probably a word people normally associate with bubble tea, yet we are challenging that notion by doing things with the utmost care and providing what we believe is the best product. Using top-quality milk and ingredients, we are striving to bring you the best bubble tea in the UK.” CDG Leisure acted on the Shaftesbury Avenue deal.

Michelin-starred chef to close Yorkshire restaurant on Sundays to give staff better work-life balance: Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks will close his Yorkshire restaurant with rooms, The Black Swan, on Sundays to give staff a better work-life balance. Previously open from Wednesday to Sunday, the restaurant, in Oldstead, will now open from Tuesday to Saturday instead. Banks said: “We're constantly striving to do things differently at our restaurants in Yorkshire. Our industry can be a challenging place to work, and employees' work-life balance can so easily be compromised. Closing The Black Swan on Sundays enables our team to take time and recharge at the weekend with family, friends and loved ones – something I know is crucial for both personal and professional development.” It follows the launch earlier this year of The Ainsworth & Banks Exchange, in partnership with fellow Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth. The programme, which offers staff from each business the opportunity to experience first-hand the workings of another restaurant group, will continue into 2023 following positive feedback.

Everyman executive chairman steps down: Paul Wise, executive chairman of cinema operator Everyman, will step down from 28 February 2023. Philip Jacobson, currently a non-executive director, will then take on the role of non-executive chairman. Wise joined Everyman in 2013, having previously been a partner at accountancy firm BDO, where he worked with a variety of international listed and unlisted companies. Wise said: “I leave the business in good health and well-positioned to deliver on its plans to further develop the brand, open new venues and grow market share.” Jacobson added: “I have seen first-hand the outstanding job Paul has done in building Everyman into what it is today – the business has undergone remarkable growth and positive change under his guidance. Like Paul, I am passionate about the Everyman brand, and look forward to helping the company pursue its ambitions in this new role.” Alex Scrimgeour, chief executive of Everyman, added: “For 14 years, Paul has been instrumental in building the Everyman proposition, growing the business and, most recently, navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic. Thanks in no small part to his stewardship, Everyman has emerged a stronger business, and we fully expect to announce strong results for the current year in line with the outlook statement contained in our interim results.” In September, Scrimgeour said Everyman remained on track to at least meet expectations for the full year. He said the business, which currently has 38 cinemas and 129 screens, started the second half of 2022 in line with expectations and the outlook for the remainder of the year was “promising”.

Plant-based food developer raises £5m: Plant-based food developer Julienne Bruno has raised £5m through its latest funding round, with seed fund Cherry Ventures. The funds will contribute to the expansion of the brand and its team, and its larger vision for transforming the perception of vegan food. It will also support existing partnerships with retailers including Selfridges, Holland & Barrett and Whole Foods Market, and the creation of a new dairy-free collection. The round, led by Cherry Ventures, includes Outsized Ventures as well as pro-rata from existing investors such as Seedcamp and Nicoya. It follows pre-seed investment in February 2021, led by Seedcamp along with Nicoya and select angel investors, which raised just over £1m. Founded in December 2020 by Axel Katalan, a former concept developer for Wagamama founder Alan Yau, Julienne Bruno aims to “offer a different perspective on plant-based food” and has grown to a team of 16, based in a London warehouse. Its team also includes head of food Chi San, previously head of food for Alan Yau Projects and head chef at Wagamama, and chief commercial officer Sunjiv Shah, previously general manager of UberEats UK & Ireland. Cherry Ventures principal Dinika Mahtani said: “The vegan product market is expected to grow significantly in the next decade, and we have full confidence that Julienne Bruno will lead the way. With our seed round, we're excited to join Axel and his team as they bring their original products to more people, and we're excited the news coincides with its launches in Holland & Barrett plus Whole Foods Market in the UK.”

Cambridgeshire retail village with cafe-restaurant and food hall to open next year: A new retail village featuring a cafe-restaurant and artisan food hall is set to open in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in April 2023. Ben's Yard will aim to champion both “local businesses and British brands” and will also feature spa services and a playground themed on local landmark Ely Cathedral. There will also be a multi-acre event space with marked trails through woodland, fenland and wildflower meadows, reaching across the 2,500-acre Stuntney Estate. The cafe-restaurant will offer a menu of modern British and international classics, created using seasonal and locally produced food, and featuring an outdoor terrace with heaters and umbrellas. Ben's Yard Larder will also sell food to go including fresh salads, pizza, sandwiches, sausage rolls, confectionery, jam, condiments and cakes. 

Beckford Group to open Bath restaurant next month: South west operator Beckford Group will open a restaurant in Bath city centre next month. The Beckford Canteen will be the second restaurant for the group, which is run by co-founders Dan Brod, Charlie Luxton and Matt Greenlees. The team already operates Beckford Bottle Shop in the city along with four country inns across Wiltshire and Somerset. The Beckford Canteen will occupy a former Georgian greenhouse, in Bartlett Street. There will be around 40 seats inside and a further 40 in the restaurant's hidden garden to the rear, which will open in the spring. The Beckford Canteen will serve an all-day menu as well as drinks and snacks, with the kitchen headed by George Barson, who began his career at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage in Devon and has also worked at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver's former Fifteen restaurant in north London. The drinks menu will feature local ale, wine and classic cocktails. Brod said: “We want to rejuvenate the idea of modern British informal dining at The Canteen – getting the best out of the best ingredients by serving simple, honest and delicious food with conviviality. Even though this is perhaps a ridiculous time to open a new restaurant, we fell in love with the site, and just had to do it.”

Property investment firm to make restaurant debut later this month, in London: Property investment firm Castleforge is set to open its first restaurant, Dorothy and Marshall, later this month in Bromley, south London. As reported previously, the all-day restaurant will take over the courthouse in the 1906 grade II-listed Old Town Hall, offering classic British dishes using local ingredients. It will now open on Tuesday, 29 November, featuring fresh produce grown in the fields of Kent. The à la carte menu will feature starters such as cheese soufflé double baked with cheddar cream and chives; and smoked ham hock terrine with toasted sourdough and homemade piccalilli. Among the main courses will be braised beef short rib with Guinness and black treacle, bone marrow mash and red cabbage; and cut of the day from the grill with hispi cabbage and salsa verde. The weekends will bring a brunch menu featuring the likes of smashed avocado and poached eggs; and Severn & Wye oak smoked salmon with warm potato pancake, caperberries and herb creme fraiche. Leading the kitchen is Ralph Jones, former head chef at Geales in Notting Hill, while mixologist Cyan Wong has created a list of classic cocktails and new concoctions inspired by the local area. Castleforge made its first investments in the hospitality sector last year when it acquired the Best Western Plus Bruntsfield Hotel in Edinburgh and the Hilton hotel in Cardiff.

Former Quo Vadis and Rochelle Canteen chef opens second converted London barge concept: Chef Lorcan Spiteri, who has worked in the kitchens at Soho members club Quo Vadis and Shoreditch bar-restaurant Rochelle Canteen, has opened a second site for his converted London barge concept. He has opening cocktail bar Bruno's with brother Fin Spiteri, who has worked behind the bar at Islington's 69 Colebrook Row and Highgate's Ladies & Gents, as well as founding Borough Market's Flat Iron Square project. It is located on the Regent's Canal next to Caravel, the restaurant the brothers opened on another converted floating barge in March.

Orée Boulangeries continues London expansion with Chiswick opening: French artisan patisserie concept Orée Boulangeries has continued its expansion across London, with an opening in Chiswick. The 11-strong business, which launched its first UK site in 2016 in Fulham Road, has taken on the former Mobile & Vape unit in Chiswick High Road, which will soon have a Pret A Manger next door. It follows an opening in Muswell Hill earlier this spring. Founded by Laurent d’Orey, Orée is known for its artisan recipes, including 12 different varieties of bread such as rye, sourdough, buckwheat, Nordic and Japanese, as well as a seasonal “bread of the month”. It currently operates sites in locations including Richmond, Battersea, Kensington and Covent Garden. 

Oakham cafe concept Fika to launch third site: Oakham cafe concept Fika is opening a third site, in Stamford, Lincolnshire. The concept, which is inspired by the Swedish philosophy of enjoying the little things in life, will open a site at the Woolfox country club today (Monday, 21 November). The company, which is led by brother and sister Teodora Naneva and Ivo Nanev, took over Fika in Mill Street, Oakham, Rutland, in 2020. It opened a second site at the former Carphone Warehouse premises in High Street, Stamford, last October. Fika serves coffee, a range of brunch dishes and lunch.

North west sandwich maker opens debut standalone store: Sandwich maker Alex Markham has opened his first standalone site, in Manchester's MediaCity, under his fast-growing lockdown start-up brand, Sndwch. Working behind the scenes making more than 30,000 sandwiches each month, Markham supplies a number of companies across the north west, including the 11-strong coffee shop concept 92 Degrees. Since its launch in September 2020, Sndwch has grown phenomenally, turning over £125,000 in its first year, £500,000 in its second, and is now on track to reach £1m turnover this financial year. Branching out on his own for the first time, Markham has opened a sandwich and coffee shop on the ground floor of Arrive's Tomorrow building in MediaCity. It joins his existing concession within MediaCity General Store. Markham had a career in film, TV and live events production before sandwiches became his bread and butter. He started making soup from the kitchen table of his Manchester flat, taking online orders and delivering it around the city on his bike. This grew into his brand “Soop”, which was later stocked in Selfridges. When the pandemic hit, business ground to a halt. As chance would have it, General Store Group, one of Markham's soup stockists, lost its sandwich supplier, and owner Mital Morar asked Markham to step in and supply sandwiches – and Sndwch was born. Markham added: “We have ambitious plans for growth and some new collaborations to reveal soon. Something big is coming next year to further stamp our arrival in Manchester.” 
 
The ONE Group opens third London site for STK brand: The ONE Group, which operates 26 sites around the world under its steak restaurant brand STK, has opened a third site in London. The business, which operates a site in the ME Hotel in the Strand and the Doubletree by Hilton London in Westminster, has opened a restaurant at The Gantry Hotel in Stratford, reports Hot Dinners. The menu focuses on steaks but there is also a raw bar and other dishes include braised beef short rib and organic salmon. The Gantry is also home to Hermano coffee bar, Union Social, Coupe Bar while a roof terrace is launching soon. 
 
Liverpool hotel owned by Signature Living that went into administration goes on market: The Dixie Dean hotel in Liverpool, which was owned by aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living before going into administration, has been put up for sale. CBRE is marketing the 45-bedroom Victoria Street property that is still open for business after first launching in 2019. CBRE said the “business and trading expectations are extremely positive with continued growth since opening with strong forward bookings leading into 2023”. The asking price has not been disclosed. The firm behind the hotel, Signature Eden, entered administration in August. Advisory firm Kroll is overseeing the process. In a CBRE brochure, it said the hotel has “proven to be a strong performer in Liverpool's boutique and event hotel market”, reports Business Live. CBRE also said the hotel “offers significant and exciting asset management opportunities with upside potential around rebranding and operational platform”.
 
Michelin-starred chef Takuya Watanabe launches omakase restaurant in London: Michelin-starred chef Takuya Watanabe has opened an omakase restaurant in London. Watanabe, who is behind Jin, the first sushi omakase restaurant in Paris to receive a Michelin star, has launched Taku Mayfair. The 16-cover Omakase restaurant in Albemarle Street offers a tasting menu that changes daily. There is a 17-course lunch menu, a signature menu with 20 dishes and the prestige menu, which features even more courses and luxurious ingredients such as caviar and truffle, reports Hot Dinners. Takuya has been working with sushi since age 19 in Japan, including three years of intensive training at a traditional Kaiseki restaurant prior to his decade as chef patron at Jin Paris. On the drinks side, sommelier Bowie Tsang is serving specialty sakes alongside fine and rare wine to match each course.
 
Leon opens Chelmsford site: Natural fast food brand Leon has opened a site in Chelmsford, Essex. It has opened a 2,700 square-foot unit in Bond Street, with room for 56 people and creating 35 jobs. Glenn Edwards, managing director at Leon, said: “We are delighted to be opening another Leon outside of London. It's been great to become such a familiar brand in the capital, but it's also really important for us to make our restaurants accessible to people up and down the UK.” Among the menu items will be Leon's newly launched festive range, which includes the Bauble & Squeak Wrap, Turkey Christmassaman Curry and a collection of new latte flavours – chai, spice biscuit and amaretto. Earlier this month, Leon opened its first 24-hour site in the UK, in the arrivals hall at London Stansted airport in Essex.
 
London pub operators open Mediterranean-inspired aperitivo bar: London pub operators Tom Rees and Ben Martin, who run The Carlton Tavern in Kilburn and The Fellowship Inn in Bellingham, have opened a Mediterranean-inspired aperitivo bar. Rees and Martin, who are the co-founders of Homegrown Pubs, have opened Deep Cuts at 171 Mare Street in Hackney. Inspired by the backstreet bars of Spain and Italy, it serves up a mixture of small plates, wine and vermouth, reports Hot Dinners. Rees, a former operations manager at the Metropolitan Pub Co and Bermondsey Pubs, and Martin, a former Mitchells & Butlers general manager, founded Homegrown Pubs in 2020 with the aim of restoring historic pubs. They reopened The Carlton Tavern the following year, having taken the historic pub on after it was rebuilt brick by brick by developers who had illegally demolished it six years previously. In September, they reopened The Fellowship Inn, a former training base for boxing legend Henry Cooper, which had closed in 2019. Following a £4m Heritage Lottery-funded refurbishment by owners Phoenix, a community housing group, it now features a cinema, theatre, cafe and music space.

Former Greene King head of food development opens third site: Stuart Riddle, former head of food development (premium) at brewer and retailer Greene King, has opened his third site. Riddle and wife Joanna have relaunched The Woodside Hotel in Doune, Scotland, which they bought a year ago, and have invested £1.4m refurbishing the property. Now known as “The Woodside”, it is a 140-cover venue featuring a pub, coffee house, restaurant, terrace dining, 11 letting rooms and a function suite, reports The Scotsman. Riddle had become head chef at the two-AA Rosette Dunain Park Country House Hotel aged 25 before holding the roles of menu development manager at the Spirit Group, catering controller at Belhaven Pubs, and finally head of food development (premium) at Greene King. The pair started their portfolio in 2013 when they embarked on a £700,000 development of the Stirling Arms to create pub, kitchen and coffee house The Riverside, in Dunblane. That property was overhauled to offer a 140-cover venue. In 2018, the couple invested £1.2m renovating The Allan Park Hotel in Stirling. It was renamed “The Allan Park – pub, restaurant and coffee house with rooms” and transformed into a 120-cover venue with eight letting rooms. The three sites are expected to collectively turn over more than £3.5m with a workforce of almost 100.

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