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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 15th Dec 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gilkes – 2022 revenue set to surpass 2019, new openings have exceeded expectations: Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the Inception Group, has told Propel the 13-strong company's revenue for 2022 is set to surpass its 2019 level, helped by the performance of its new openings exceeding expectations. The company – which is behind Mr Fogg's, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots – posted turnover of £24.6m in 2019, with Ebitda of £1.8m and profits of £200,000. In 2020, turnover was £6.6m due to the impact of the pandemic, with Ebitda of minus £1.8m, and a loss of £2.5m. For the 2021 period, the business is set to report revenue grew to £12.7m, with Ebitda of £2.4m and a net profit of £800,000. Gilkes told Propel: “While 2021 was better than 2020, it was another challenging year. It continued to be adversely impacted by the pandemic. With encouraging signs of trade during the summer and autumn months, the Omicron covid variant then surfaced and decimated our Christmas trade. Our revenue was therefore hit hard but we worked tirelessly to make the best of a bad situation. We are pleased to report, in spite of the many headwinds we have faced as a sector, notably substantial cost inflation, we will have achieved a much better set of financial results than 2021 in the current year ending 31 December 2022. Our two most recent openings – Mr Fogg's Apothecary in Brook Street and Control Room B at Battersea Power Station – have exceeded our budget and expectations. With the opening of a new Mr Fogg's in Soho set for the first quarter of 2023 and with some other exciting new venues, 2023 is set to be a stronger year than 2022.” On current trading, Gilkes said: "The strikes have resulted in a number of cancellations this week, most pronounced in the City/Square Mile. However, a good amount has been rescheduled for January and the impact while painful isn't as bad as Omicron.” He also said for now the aforementioned “exciting new venues” for next year will be in the capital but the business is “starting to look at opportunities outside of London too”. He added: “Our mission statement from when we founded the company in 2009 has been ‘to create unique and memorable experiences’ and we feel our style of concepts is very well placed for the current marketplace.”

Industry News:

Tattu Restaurants to speak at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Lotte Leatham, brand and marketing director at Tattu Restaurants, will speak at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023. 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. Leatham will share what the business plans to stop, start and do more of during 2023. More than 50 industry and agency leaders will take to the stage over two days representing brands including Cornish Bakery, Burger King UK, Gail’s Bakery, The Alchemist, Hawksmoor, Searcy’s, Press Up Hospitality Group, Vapiano, Popeyes UK, Inception Group, Oakman Group, New World Trading Company, Peggy Porschen Cakes, Krispy Kreme, KellyDeli, Red Engine, East Coast Concepts, Coco di Mama, The Cocktail Club, Hilton, Elior, MJMK, Lollipop, Chotto Matte, Ping Pong, Nobu, Gusto Italian, BrewDog, Kaleido, Darjeeling Express, Flat Earth Pizzas and Six by Nico. For the full speaker schedule for day one click here and for day two click here. 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
Sector businesses seeing intense inflation ‘in every aspect of their operations’, cost of night out increasing at fastest rate since 1991: Sector businesses are seeing intense inflation “in every aspect of their operations” and need certainty on the future of the government’s energy support scheme beyond March, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has said. Prices rose by 10.7% in the year to November, compared with 11.1% in October, leading some analysts to predict that soaring inflation may have peaked. But the cost of going out drinking has increased ahead of Christmas, with wine, gin and whisky prices rising. Alcohol prices rose across the board in November at pubs, restaurants and cafes, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed. It said the cost of a night out was now increasing at its fastest rate since late 1991. Annual food inflation hit 16.5% in November, the ONS said, the highest rate for 45 years and up from 16.4% in October. Nicholls said: “While the headline rate of inflation has reduced slightly, it remains the case that hospitality businesses are seeing intense inflation in every aspect of their operations. In particular, energy, food and drink costs continue to rise and will be taking up a significant proportion of business spend. These levels of inflation will not disappear overnight and businesses are doing everything they can to keep costs down, but they need certainty on the future of the government’s energy support scheme beyond March. It’s crucial the hospitality sector is included in future energy support to help businesses survive and ensure they can keep prices down for customers.”
Third of sector businesses to reduce Christmas opening hours and simplify menus due to staff shortages: A third of sector businesses have said they will reduce opening hours over Christmas and simplify their menus due to staff shortages. Labour shortages has also taken its toll on business confidence, with 60% of business leaders no longer confident about recruitment, according to UKHospitality latest Future Shock report, in partnership with CGA by NielsenIQ. UKHospitality has now called on the government to help tackle the crisis by expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme to include EU member states and reviewing the shortage occupation list to accurately reflect the state of the labour market. It has also called for an abolition of the immigration skills charge, a “punitive measure that deters would-be applicants”, and for a reform of the Apprenticeship Levy so funds can be made eligible for non-apprenticeship training and improving the apprenticeship system. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are facing a systemic problem that has persisted for years, and it needs urgent attention from government. The statistics in the report lay bare the real-life impact on businesses and consumers as a result of not having enough staff. It’s so disappointing businesses are having to go to such lengths such as simplifying menus and reducing trading hours to deal with this. There are very simple measures available to the government that can free up the immigration system and make a huge difference to business.” CGA’s director of hospitality operators and food, Karl Chessell, added: “Strong underlying consumer demand is being compromised by a storm of cost and labour issues. All these issues have hurt business confidence and profitability ahead of the crucial Christmas and new year trading period.”
Sam Harrison reports restaurant bookings down by more than half as rail strikes bring London operators to their knees: Restaurateur Sam Harrison has said the rail strikes have slashed his restaurant bookings by more than half in some cases. Harrison, who operates Sam’s Riverside and Sam’s Larder in Hammersmith, as well as a further Sam’s Larder in Chiswick, earlier this month secured sites for two further openings in Brentford. He has already had to cancel multiple winter bookings after being forced to take down his council-approved marquee, which accommodated hundreds of covers at Sam’s Riverside every week, due to complaints from local residents. “Our bookings dropped from 125 to 60 for lunch on Wednesday (14 December) and from 185 to 130 for dinner,” Harrison said. “On Thursday (15 December), lunch is down from120 to 80, and dinner, 190 to 90. They will probably drop even further this weekend.” It is a similar story at JiJi, the Israeli-Japanese dining concept opened in London’s Islington last year by Cain International and Sumosan founder Janina Wolkow. “Our bookings are about 30% lower than usual, and on top of this, we are seeing a large percentage of no-shows each strike day,” said operations director Michael West. “It’s a struggle to say the least.” Another restaurant suffering the same fate is Kanani, launched in 2018 in London’s Chelsea by Peter Joseph, former head chef at the Michelin-starred Tamarind. “The strikes have significantly affected our bookings – we lost more than 50 covers on Wednesday, and Thursday is looking the same, if not worse,” said general manager Shoaib Malik. “I estimate we will be losing around £4,000 to £5,000 each strike day. Friday or Saturday strike days will be even more damaging.”

Hospitality and tourism recorded fastest rate of input price inflation of any UK sector in November: Hospitality and tourism businesses saw the fastest operating cost rises of any UK sector in November, as firms faced sharp increases in the price of energy, food, and drink, according to the latest Lloyds Bank UK Sector Tracker. The sector – which includes pubs, hotels and restaurants – faced higher inflationary pressures than any of the other 13 UK sectors monitored, registering 86.1 on the tracker’s measure of cost inflation. The tracker’s composite input cost index, which measures cost rises across both manufacturing and services sectors, showed overall, cost inflation across the economy accelerated month-on-month (76.7 versus 75.7 in October). In November, the UK had the sharpest rate of cost inflation of all 13 countries monitored by the tracker – a position it has held more times (six) than any of its global counterparts over the past 12 months. However, the number of sectors recording a rise in output rose to three out of the 14 sectors monitored by the tracker, up from two in October. In response to the panel survey, the number of firms reporting falling sales due to price increases rose sharply, reaching 15 times the long-term average, up from ten times higher in October. November’s result was the second highest level for this measure on record and only marginally below the high registered in April 2022, in the immediate aftermath of the start of the war in Ukraine. Businesses were, overall, still growing their workforces, with seven of 14 sectors showing a rise in staffing levels. However, rising costs and weaker demand meant the rate companies are adding staff fell to its slowest pace since February 2021, when the UK was in lockdown. Against this backdrop, the number of UK companies that said they were facing challenges to retain staff in November rose to 1.90 times the long-term average – the highest level since March 2009 – up from 0.97 times the average in October. 
Watson – pubs face bleak future: Pubs face a “bleak” future as costs climb and customers rein in their spending, Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Company, has warned. Watson told the BBC that refurbishment plans were on hold and some kitchens may have to close at quiet times because of the rising price of food and energy. “I don't want to be sensationalist about it, but it is bleak," said Watson”, whose business operates 45 sites, with four in Wales. “After Christmas, trade is always very quiet and, I think, it is going to be a long haul for operators who, let’s face it, have had two years of covid challenges. These are businesses who have been through a lot of pain already. To go into the new year with all the high costs we have talked about, plus consumers feeling the pinch as well, I genuinely fear for a lot of pubs’ long-term survival.” He said Christmas bookings were ahead of the same period in 2019, but spending per head was down as “the office credit card isn't as flexible as it has been in the past”. The combination of staff shortages, higher running costs and lower customer spending meant pubs were reluctant to invest in expanding their businesses. “Why would I open a new pub in Cardiff or Newport if I am struggling to get the staff into existing pubs?” he said. "We are curtailing our expansion and refurbishment [plans], and really just focusing on what we have got.” Businesses that supply the hospitality sector are also facing tough trading conditions. The Tomos and Lilford Brewery, in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, employed seven people this time last year, but now managing director Rob Lilford is the only full-time staff member. He said pubs were ordering less beer, and the costs of producing it had increased significantly this year. “We faced a 30% rise in the price of the raw material, the grain that beer is made from,” he said. “That was in January, and we are now expecting a higher rise than that this January – something in the region of 40% to 45%.”
Hospitality spending in Greater Manchester above pre-pandemic levels but negative cash flow remains high: Spending and demand in the hospitality sector in Greater Manchester has recovered to pre-pandemic levels and been boosted in the past quarter, according to data from the Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce. In its quarterly Economic Outlook Report, the Chamber revealed that the sector has recovered better than its counterparts in retail, with regional tourism and World Cup fixtures boosting trade for pubs and bars. The survey of 324 businesses also revealed spending in outer boroughs has been bolstered by customers staying local, in contrast to the city centre, where struggles continue due to the changing work habits and train strikes. Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, said: “Trading across Greater Manchester has been quietly improving in the past 12 months. There have been some extremely tough times, but the region is outperforming multiple cities including London in its recovery. However, we cannot be complacent, and although I am confident the sector can sustain its recovery, the first quarter of 2023 will be extremely tough. We are forecasting a severe drop in consumer spending which businesses must prepare for.” The data also showed the number of businesses in negative cash flow remains high, signalling the potential for financial distress in the first six months of 2023. Lord added: “This isn’t just a northern problem, it’s nationwide, and businesses across the country are suffering. In an ideal world, we would be advising operators to stockpile now in order to reserve cash flow, but clearly this is an impossible strategy given the lack of a solid starting ground.”
SBPA urges Circularity Scotland to keep revising key areas of deposit return scheme: The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SPBA) has urged Circularity Scotland to keep revising key areas of the deposit return scheme (DRS) before it goes live. From August 2023, every single-use drinks container sold in Scotland will be subject to a 20p deposit, which will then be refunded to consumers when they take it back to their local shop or return point. Circularity Scotland, which is administrating the scheme, this week announced it has revised both the producer fee and day one charges. The fees, calculated for each type of material, now reflect the variations in collection costs as well as the sales revenues for collected materials. The timing of cash flows from producers to the scheme administrator for deposits and the producer fee have also been reviewed, and will now require less cash to be paid by producers at the point the scheme goes live. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the SBPA, said: “We welcome the decision from Circularity Scotland to reduce day one cash requirements and the year one producer fees ahead of the implementation of the DRS in Scotland. However, with only eight months remaining until the proposed go live date, there remains several key areas that need urgent resolutions from the Scottish government to ensure a smooth implementation of the scheme – notably around the charging of VAT on deposits and the issue of online takeback.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a London hotel group that is looking for a sustainability and utilities category manager to join its team. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be responsible for all strategic sourcing and category management activities including contract and supplier relationship management for sustainability, utility and waste management categories, for the whole group.” The salary is up to £75,000 and the position is based in London with hybrid working. For more information, email

Company News:

Beckett – trading has been really good in 2022, Christmas was shaping up to be best ever: Will Beckett, co-founder of the Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor, has told Propel trading for the 11-strong business has been “really good” in 2022. Beckett said he was optimistic about what 2023 would bring for Hawksmoor, “although we’ll see how the socio-economic situation plays out” and was excited about the company’s opening in Dublin in the spring. He said: “Trading has been really good in 2022, with the outer London sites in particular performing strongly. Christmas was shaping up to be the best ever before train strikes hampered this week.” It comes as Hawksmoor saw turnover increase 74% to £35.7m for the year ending December 2021, a year blighted by the end of the covid restrictions, but boosted by the opening of new restaurants in Canary Wharf and New York towards the end of the period. The company said: “Hawksmoor, continuing its trend of making money throughout the pandemic, saw underlying Ebitda increase to £2.9m in the year (2020: £0.3m). The disparity between the growth in revenue versus Ebitda year-on-year is due to more stringent restrictions affecting capacity being in force during the periods the restaurants operated in 2020 compared with 2021. The impact of the covid-19 pandemic has meant the traditional financial KPls are not representative of the underlying performance of the group and the directors expect underlying Ebitda will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.” Beckett told Propel the company was “entirely committed to opening a second US site to build on the success of New York”, but didn’t think the business would get one open next year though. Beckett reiterated Hawksmoor, which recently opened a new site in Liverpool, was not running a sales process, after reports earlier this year suggested the company had appointed investment bank Stephens to launch a process in 2023. He told Propel: “All we’re doing is trying to understand the investment landscape for Hawksmoor in the future – funds with a North American or Transatlantic focus, an environment, social and governance focus or just a growth/consumer mindset.”
Foodco plans up to 14 new stores in 2023, including Northern Ireland debut for Muffin Break: Foodco is planning to open up to 14 new stores in 2023, including a Northern Ireland debut for its Muffin Break brand, Propel has learned. It comes as the company ended its 2022 pipeline with two new Muffin Break openings – in The Broadway, Bradford, and The Broad Street Mall in Reading – bringing the brand’s UK footprint to 62. It is aiming to hit 70 Muffin Break stores by June 2023. “We’ll do 12-14 stores in total next year, eight Muffin Breaks and four Jamaica Blues,” Foodco’s head of estates Josh Nixon told Propel. “We are currently under offer for Muffin Breaks in Leeds, Newry and Basingstoke, and for a Jamaica Blue in Belfast city centre. Foodco’s counter-cyclical growth has been managed with agents and landlords willing to agree suitable terms, which sees Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue opening in high footfall sites in shopping centres and high streets across the country. We welcome all opportunities from agents and landlords in high footfall locations with durable anchors as we ramp up growth into 2023.” Foodco opened its last Jamaica Blue site, and 18th in the UK, in Manchester last month.
Wickenden – Poke House’s strategy on where it can open is evolving, we’ve only scratched the surface in London: Rob Wickenden, co-country head for Poke House UK, has told Propel the company’s expansion strategy is evolving helped by the success of its recent opening in the Battersea Power Station development. He added the business has only “scratched the surface” when it comes to openings in London. Wickenden, who joined the nine-strong UK division of the brand, which has more than 100 restaurants around the globe, at the start of November, said the Battersea opening had shown the brand could operate in shopping schemes and during colder months. He said: “I mean, the colder months are always more difficult for us because people are looking for something nice and warm. But you know, we're looking at ways to fix that and what we can do with our offer. The majority of our stores are high street stores, so now we've got at Battersea Power Station a climate-controlled environment where ultimately people will buy poké. It's looking for that honeypot of where people are congregating, wherever that might be.” He added: “We have hunger for more sites, but the deal has to be right. It comes back to value. It's not the cheapest, but it's the one that offers the most reward. When you look at the success we've had in Italy, and you know the number of sites we've got there, and the move to kind of the franchise element there, the UK is significantly stronger than Italy, from a market perspective. Have we scratched the surface in London? I’m not saying we can be the size of Pret, but it does show you the size of the opportunity.” The company hopes to make its regional debut next year, in Cambridge. Wickenden said: “For us it's that hub and spoke model. We want to have a central kitchen and then deliver through it. Cambridge is just close enough to our central production kitchen to make it work. Oxford is another location that we can service with our current setup. Once we move from that, then we need to look at what we do from a central production kitchen perspective.”
Glasgow McDonald’s franchisee sees profits more than treble as turnover approaches £100m: McDonald’s franchisee AG Restaurants, which operates 26 branches in Glasgow and employs more than 2,200 people, saw its profits more than treble in the year ending 31 December 2021. Pre-tax profits, which stood at £2,337,290 in the last full year before the pandemic, rose from £2,100,553 in 2020 to £7,333,878. Turnover was up from £57,195,390 in 2020 to £95,981,223 and was above the last full year before the pandemic (2019: £70,046,319). The company received £844,352 from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2020: £3,354,084). It said: “The company has had a strong year, with both positive turnover and profit growth as a result of both strong demand for delivery and a return to in-store dining. The company's balance sheet position at the year end was healthy, with £11,623,807 of retained profits. The growth in sales is predominantly due to stores being closed for several weeks during 2020, along with an uplift in delivery sales. Gross profit stood at 68.18% compared with 68.61% in 2020 and is in line with expectations. The company plans to acquire more restaurants should the opportunity arise.” Owner Andy Gibson started out in McDonald’s in 1992 when he took his first job in London, where he was in charge of a number of restaurants in the capital for 12 years. He then moved to Scotland to become a regional manager, and got his first chance to become a franchisee in 2002.
Hostmore non-executive to step down, Fridays to open Durham site this week: Hostmore – the parent company of Fridays, 63rd+1st and Fridays and Go – has announced Louise Stonier has stepped down as an independent non-executive director to focus on her expanded executive commitments. The company said it will initiate a formal search for a replacement for Stonier, who joined the business when it floated last year, shortly. Meanwhile, the company’s core brand, Fridays, will open its next restaurant on Friday (16 December), in Durham. The 6,000 square-foot unit sits within The Riverwalk. It follows Fridays' recent opening in Barnsley and will create 70 jobs. Julie McEwan, chief operating officer at Hostmore, said: “We are pleased to be ending 2022 on such a high note by celebrating the opening of our newest restaurant just in time for Christmas. Durham is a city rich in history and culture, and with Fridays being a brand where honouring our heritage is a significant part of our offering, we feel the match couldn't be more ideal.”
Castle Rock Brewery returns to profit, energy costs up 30%: Nottingham brewer and retailer Tynemill, which trades as Castle Rock Brewery, has reported it recovered from a pre-tax loss of £1,264,869 in 2021 to make a pre-tax profit of £596,486 for the year ending 31 March 2022. The figure, which was boosted by £83,000 income from the sale of a property, was also up on the year ending 31 March 2020, when it made a £22,967 pre-tax profit. The business, which operates a brewery along with 21 pubs in the East Midlands, saw turnover increase from £2,210,300 in 2021 to £7,671,300 but was below the £10,149,562 for the year ending 31 March 2020 when the final month of trade was impacted by the start of the covid pandemic. The company received £559,001 from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme compared with £1,850,871 in 2021. Director Colin Wilde said despite having signed a contract in October 2021 that fixes energy prices through until October 2023, energy costs were up 30% on last year. In his report accompanying the accounts, he said: “The improved profitability compared with previous years comes from a reduction in the operating costs and working on a lower headcount in several areas of the business. The amount of capital investment and cash we would spend on repairs and renewals has been restricted since the pandemic while the company has concentrated on paying back both its short and long-term debt. This has led to a reduction in interest charges for the year, and these will feed through stronger in the current year and onwards. We are hopeful this will contribute towards building the headroom required to be able to catch up on investment back into the business. The company believes it is robust enough to get through another very challenging period and is set up well to benefit from economic recovery when it comes.” 

LXi REIT agrees lease re-gear deal with Travelodge: Property investor LXi REIT has agreed a lease re-gear deal with Travelodge on all of the 122 hotels in its Secure Income REIT portfolio. The 12 Travelodge hotels that formed part of the separate LXi REIT portfolio have already been re-geared or were new forward fundings. In return for inserting caps and collars on the RPI rent reviews, the group has extended the weighted average unexpired lease terms (WAULT) on the hotels by an average of nine years. This has the effect of extending the WAULT to first break on the hotels from 19.5 years to 28.5 years and increasing the WAULT of the total LXi REIT portfolio from 25.6 years to 27.3 years. LXi and Travelodge have also agreed the “rent smoothing” of these 122 hotels. This means that the individual rent levels have been reset per hotel to best reflect the trading performance of each site. The total rent across the hotels remains the same, but has been “smoothed” on a site-by-site basis, to ensure that each hotel has a robust standalone rent cover. Simon Lee, fund manager of LXi REIT Advisors, said: “We’re delighted to have worked so effectively with Travelodge to execute this material and accretive lease extension and rent-smoothing exercise, while inserting green lease provisions. This transaction is the latest step in our plans to unlock further embedded value from the merged LXi/SIR portfolio, following the earnings and net-asset-value-enhancing Merlin ‘income strip’ transaction which completed in October this year. Our expanded portfolio has defensive characteristics and further potential for value accretive asset management opportunities, which we are also actively exploring.”

Haute Dolci set to open third London store in January as part of four F&B brands launching at The O2: Premium dessert and gourmet burger concept Haute Dolci is set to open its third London store next month, and 16th overall. The business, launched by Heavenly Desserts founder Nizam Mohamed in 2017, has taken a 3,100 square-foot site at The O2. Also opening at the venue's Entertainment District are debut sites for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern concept Soukra, and American bar and restaurant Trapdoor. Founded by Hamdi Bensalem and Sanj Nandhe, Soukra’s 9,730 square-foot unit will span the ground floor, with mezzanine and garden spaces, and serve dishes such as shakshuka, Andalusian lamb tajine and lamb kafta to 300 covers. Trapdoor, which will feature food and cocktails alongside live DJ sets, has taken 4,000 square feet on the lower ground level. The O2 has also confirmed the arrival on an 8,000 square-foot JD Wetherspoon pub early in 2023, as previously reported. It comes as The O2’s Entertainment District reports a strong performance, with sales up 13% in October and November 2022 versus the same months in 2019. The Entertainment District at The O2 dealt with Lunson Mitchenall. Soukra dealt direct.
Little Caesars Pizza to make UK return on Monday: Little Caesars Pizza, the world’s third-largest pizza chain, will make its UK return on Monday (19 December). As previously reported, the brand, which currently operates in 27 countries and territories, will open in Derby. The site – located in Riber Drive, Chellaston – will offer Little Caesars Pizzas’ signature hot-n-ready 12-inch pizzas, including pepperoni, margherita and Italian sausage and bacon. The opening in Derby will be followed by two sites in London and an outlet in Liverpool early next year. “As we continue to expand around the world, we are thrilled to bring Little Caesars Pizza and our globally recognised value, quality and convenience to the UK,” said Paula Vissing, chief operating officer for Little Caesars Pizza. “The UK is an important market for us given how influential it is. We expect to open several new sites in this market over the next few years, and we are excited to be entering with such strong franchisee groups in Derby, London, and Liverpool.” Little Caesars Pizza previously operated in the UK but pulled out of the market in 2000. Last month, the brand told Propel it expects to have 20 sites open in Britain by the end of 2023.
Azzurri Group ramps up sustainability credentials with new Recipe for a Better Future strategy: Azzurri Group – the ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco Di Mama operator – has launched a new sustainability strategy called Recipe for a Better Future, with targets including providing carbon labelling for items listed on menus by 2025, and 65% of dishes to be low or very low carbon options by 2030. The company said: “The strategy counts 19 ambitious goals, which are structured across three pillars – people, planet and plate – and are guided by Azzurri Group's purpose – to create better food businesses that sustain happy, healthy lives. Recipe for a Better Future builds on Azzurri Group’s existing commitments, including its 2021 commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Azzurri Group is now expanding efforts to address climate change through food. As part of its commitments, the group will be designing and refitting restaurants in line with a new ambitious design and construction policy, built on a set of sustainability good practice criteria.” The new strategy has also set out goals around the progress of each of the company’s 4,500 team members, local communities and those looking to enter the job market, including by 2025, providing all team members with volunteering opportunities, investing 100,000 volunteer hours in local communities by 2030, and by 2030, helping 10,000 individuals enter the job market through apprenticeships, internships, work experience placements, and job and life skills training. The company said it will also increase spend in minority-owned businesses and sustainably certified organisations by 20% by 2030. Steve Holmes, Azzurri Group chief executive, said: “We're determined to invest in becoming a more sustainable business, delivering long-term, positive change for our people and our planet. I'm proud of our latest Sustainable Dining Report and our achievements to date, and I'm optimistic about the difference we can make as we deliver our Recipe for a Better Future.”
Schofield brothers to open The Stock Market Grill at Gary Neville’s The Stock Exchange Hotel: The “British brasserie” run by brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield, which will replace the restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge at the luxury Manchester city centre hotel owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, will be called The Stock Market Grill and open in February. Last month, it was announced Kerridge would be closing The Bull & Bear at Stock Exchange Hotel at the end of this year. The space will be taken over by the team behind Manchester bars Schofield's Bar, Atomeca and Sterling. The Schofield brothers and wine expert James Brandwood opened a cocktail bar at the hotel earlier this summer. The Stock Market Grill promises “traditional British dishes executed with technique”, with a bespoke menu that will include dishes like tartare of rib-eye with caper jam and smoked dripping, steamed cod with caramelised mash, and a sticky toffee tart with honey custard. Neville said: “I am excited to be working with Joe, Daniel and James again on the launch of The Stock Market Grill. I know they will bring another world class-brand to the Stock Exchange Hotel and to our city.” The Schofields and Brandwood said: “This is a concept that we have wanted to bring forward for some time and the former trading floor of the Stock Exchange seemed like the perfect option. Our aim is to reinvent the traditional hotel restaurant, to become a space destined for food and drink travellers, while providing an expectation exceeding experience for the residents of the hotel.”
Cineworld announces independent non-executive director to step down: Cineworld has announced Damian Sanders will step down as an independent non-executive director at the end of the year “in anticipation of pursuing a full-time executive role with another company”. Sanders joined the company in August 2020 and serves as chair of the audit committee and is a member of the nomination committee. Cineworld stated: “Following Damian's departure, the board will include a chair who was independent on appointment and four independent non-executive directors. Cineworld believes these individuals, together with other independent directors who have been appointed to the boards of various operating subsidiaries as part of the ongoing Chapter 11 process, will maintain appropriate independent governance and oversight.”

San Carlo to invest £3.5m in refurbishing Liverpool site for first of new look restaurants: San Carlo Restaurant Group, the north west operator, will close its Liverpool venue for three months on Monday, 2 January while the venue undergoes a £3.5m refurbishment. The site, which opened in Castle Street in 2009, will get a new private dining room as well as a fresh layout and décor. San Carlo managing director Marcello Distefano said: “Our Liverpool venue has held a special place within our group and the city has been so good to us over the years. We’ve built up an incredibly local customer base, and so we are excited Liverpool will be the first of our new look San Carlo restaurants. Our much-loved venue will undergo a complete facelift, transforming the aesthetic into the most breathtakingly beautiful modern setting. We look forward to inviting diners old and new to experience a new phase for us.” Last month, San Carlo announced it would be opening its first restaurant in the UAE in 2023, with a site in Dubai under its Signor Sassi brand.

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