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Mon 9th Jan 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Mission Mars reports 26% rise in lfl sales over Christmas period, quarterly revenue up 69%: Mission Mars, the Rudy’s Napoletana Pizza and Albert’s Schloss operator, has reported that group like-for-like sales for were up 26% in the five weeks to 1 January 2023 versus the same period in the prior year, driven by record sales in both brands of the business. The Roy Ellis-led business said total revenue was £16m for the 13-week period from 3 October 2022 to 1 January 2023, an increase of 69% against the same period in 2021/22. Revenue in the quarter benefited from six new Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana openings and one new Albert’s Schloss following the launch in Liverpool in November 2022. Overall, it said Rudy’s revenue grew by 86% in the Christmas period, driven by organic growth and new venues performing strongly. The nine like-for-like pizzerias delivered +37% revenue growth. The three Albert’s Schloss venues saw revenue grow to £4.3m for the five-week period, an increase of 104% on the prior year. Albert’s Schloss Manchester delivered like-for-like growth of 29%. Albert’s Schloss Liverpool opened at the end of November and the company said it was delighted with the first four full weeks of trade up to 1 January 2023. Ellis said: “I am delighted with the quarter’s trade, in particular the festive period performance. Despite numerous external challenges, our team members have helped the group deliver an industry leading group guest experience score of 73.7% for the quarter, an increase of 1.2% versus the same period in the prior year. The group is spending a significant amount of time monitoring and analysing the externals pressure the sector is facing. We have been delighted to reduce our colleague turnover levels to the lowest we have seen and are determined to drive down further through continued investment in our training, development and team engagement. In 2022, we were proud to increase our pay structure to start at Real Living Wage rates as a minimum and will continue this through 2023. Strong trading across all venues for a sustained period of time provides us with confidence that the Albert’s Schloss brand and Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana brand are well set to continue to deliver growth and are likely to trade extremely well in all parts of the UK. We continue to search for the best locations to continue our growth, with four new Rudy’s and one new Albert’s Schloss currently in legals anticipated to open in 2023.” Propel reported last month that Mission Mars plans to invest £25m-£30m over the next three years in doubling the size of the business. As part of its three-year plan, it will look to open six to eight Rudy’s sites per annum and one Albert’s Schloss. The BGF-backed company also hopes to double the size of its current circa 1,000-strong workforce by 2025. Propel understands that the business is currently in talks on a site in London’s West End.

Industry News:

Two weeks to go, some 450 booked for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023: Some 450 delegates have now booked for this year’s Restaurant Marketer and Innovator two-day conference, taking place in two weeks’ time on 24 and 25 January at One Moorgate Place in London. More than 50 industry and agency leaders will take to the stage over two days representing brands including Burger King UK, Cornish Bakery, Gail’s Bakery, The Alchemist, Hawksmoor, Searcys, 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, Tattu Restaurants, 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Blue Book of Turnover and Profit shows almost 60% of companies in profit: The Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profit, to be sent to Premium subscribers this coming Friday (13 January), shows almost 60% of the 692 largest sector companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 406 companies in profit and 286 reporting losses. Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Propel is to add a fifth major database to its Premium service this month this month. The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will be the first time full profiles of the UK’s top 700 food and beverage operators will be available in one place. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database has taken 16 months to pull together, merging Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. 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 now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before.
 
Energy companies face a crackdown after pub bills ‘rip off’: Energy companies could face an Ofgem crackdown after whacking rip-off surcharges on hard-up pubs, bars and bistros. The Sun reports the watchdog and ministers have slapped down the firms after complaints from hospitality businesses which have been crippled by excessive demands for payment upfront, inflated admin fees or restricted access to the best deals. Suppliers could face fines, while junior ministers held a meeting with energy companies to hold them to account and set “clear expectations” of their behaviour. It comes as chancellor Jeremy Hunt prepares to this week announce business energy support will be extended beyond March – but will be slashed. In a letter sent by Ofgem late last year, the watchdog warned: “Suppliers should not profit from the current state of the market in a way that negatively impacts customers and must not subvert the intent of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.” It added: “We are reviewing our options to introduce additional regulations to protect all non-domestic consumers.” Mark Selby, boss of Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca, said his supplier demanded £740,000 up front for energy last year. He said: “I would have liked to have seen some form of restriction on the energy companies as to the extent they could apply a premium because it just feels completely unnecessary when the government has made such a big sacrifice. It’s just to top up their profits.” Industry body UKHospitality said their members were reporting inflated prices for “no justifiable reason.” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said: “Their actions hiking prices, demanding excessive deposits and singling out hospitality as ‘high risk’ is undermining the government’s intention to support businesses, and leaving hospitality as collateral damage in the greedy pursuit of excess profits. We now need to see Ofgem properly step up and hold energy suppliers’ feet to the fire to force a change in their behaviour.” Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, said: “The energy companies are now causing more damage and closures to hospitality than covid did. The government and Ofgem urgently need to step in and pull them in line.”
 
Scottish hospitality leader Lisa Wishart passes away: Lisa Wishart, a prominent figure in the Scottish hospitality industry, has sadly passed away following a long illness. Wishart, 57, daughter of the late former Celtic player Harry Hood, was the managing director of Lanarkshire-based Lisini Pub Company. A statement by Lisini said: “Lisa passed away at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with her family at her side following a year long illness today, 7 January. Lisa steered the Lisini business, founded by her parents, Harry and Kathleen Hood, successfully through the pandemic, focusing on her team and ensuring that there was a business to come back to. Over the period, she worked tirelessly to ensure the continued success of the company before suffering a brain haemorrhage in December 2021. Lisini was established in 1969 and, over the years, under the family stewardship, has become one of the best respected and most successful hospitality companies in Lanarkshire and in Scotland. It employs nearly 300 people with venues including Angels in Uddingston, Dalziel Park in Motherwell, The Parkville in Blantyre, the Castle Rooms in Uddingston and The Croft in Glasgow. Lisa had a passion for hospitality for her team and for her customers. Over the years she became an ambassador for the industry, speaking out on key issues such as rates and immigration, and during the pandemic she championed the industry and was a founding member of the Scottish Hospitality Group. She was also a former director of the licensed trade charity The Ben.”
 
Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working with a popular casual restaurant brand across the UK looking for a head of learning and development. The role will be based in London, but national travel will be required. You will lead and coach the people team in developing strategies, programmes and activities that enable their teams to learn and create together, achieving professional and personal results. The salary for the position is up to £60,000. For more information on the role, please contact abbie@corecruitment.com 
 

Company News:

The Big Table Group launches pasta delivery concept Super Nonna: The Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Banana Tree, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, has launched the trial of a new pasta delivery brand called Super Nonna, Propel has learned. With the tagline Pasta! Pronto!, the new concept is described as delivering “huge flavours, generous portions and honest ingredients, all with an extra helping of Nonna magic and love”.  The brand is currently being trialled out of five of sites, the Bella Italias in Old Brompton Rd, South Kensington; Abbeywood Retail Park, Bristol; Wolverhampton; the Las Iguanas in York; and a delivery kitchen in the centre of Birmingham. The delivery concept, which is available through Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, offers pasta dishes like creamy carbonara, Nonna’s famous meatballs, simply Bolognese and a chicken Kyiv special, with prices ranging from £7.25 to £9.50. There is also a selection of specials including Mac & Cheese (£9.25), Feta Pasta (£8.75), sides, desserts and drinks. Propel understands that Daniel Land, the co-founder of Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama, has been working on the concept. Propel revealed last year that Land was working with Big Table Group on its pasta delivery options. Land founded Coco Di Mama in 2011 with Jeremy Sanders. The business grew to six sites in London before it was acquired by Azzurri Group, the Zizzi and ASK Italian owner, in 2015 for an undisclosed sum. Land left the business two years later. Coco di Mama currently operates in 145 locations nationwide, the majority out of Zizzi and ASK sites. It is not clear yet how many sites The Big Table Group believes it can expand Super Nonna to or whether it will, in time, look to open a bricks and mortar site under the concept. Last October, chef Jamie Oliver launched a pasta concept designed for delivery. Pasta Dreams was created in partnership with Taster, the delivery-first restaurant group, and initially launched at pop-up locations in Soho and Paris. It said its ambition was to become “the UK’s number one delivery pasta brand”.

Crussh set to enter into administration: London based healthy food and juice brand Crussh, which post-Christmas appointed advisors to review its options, is set to enter into administration. The company, which operates 12 sites across London and the south east as well as having a range of its products stocked in the likes of WHSmith and Sainsbury’s, has filed a notice in the courts of its intention to appoint administrators. Propel revealed in December that the company was working with FRP Advisory on its options and that first round bids for the business were being sought by 23 December, with “a view to completing a transaction as soon as possible thereafter”. In its latest accounts, the business said sales fell from £14.1m in 2020 to £2.9m in 2021 as it made a £2.8m loss. The company said it was on track to report revenue for the year to the end of March 2022 of £9.2m (2021: £3m), made up of £6.1m from its wholesale division and £3.1m from its retail outlets. Its projected full-year revenue for its current financial year is £7.3m, with £4.5m from its wholesale division and £2.8m from its retail sites. Crussh, which is led by Simon Foster, has been backed by Hattington Capital since the start of 2015, although a connected company, KG Investco, ceased to be a “person with significant control” of the business last month. At the same time, and as previously revealed by Propel, Jonathan Hart, the former UK managing director of Caffe Nero and chief executive of Thorntons, has stepped down as chairman of Crussh. Last August, Crussh permanently closed 13 of its circa 30-strong estate due to the impact of the pandemic. In the spring, Propel reported Crussh had refinanced a £1.45m bank loan during its last financial year, with shareholders and management taking on the debt, while non-executives were still waiving some or all of their salary. The company also closed its head office. FRP declined to comment.
 
Finch – Heathrow site has been a game changer, site in the works that will be the equivalent of five typical Vagabonds: Stephen Finch, founder of the Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond, has told Propel that the group’s Heathrow sites has been a “game changer” for the business, and that it has a major new site in the works that will be “the equivalent of five typical Vagabonds”. Finch said he is forecasting sales of £16m for the year ending 31 March 2023, an estimated 115% increase on 2022, driven primarily by its new site at Heathrow airport. He said: “Our London Heathrow site, launched in May 2022, is an absolute gamechanger. It brings massive, high-quality turnover to the business (£6m-£7m per annum), increases our purchasing power, gives Vagabond a prominent presence in the prestigious and hard-to-get-into Terminal 5, and opens the door to an additional expansion route (global airports). We have a very exciting new property in the works as well, and I look forward to announcing that soon. The 2020s have been incredibly challenging so far, but our results go to show what we’re able to accomplish when we’re simply allowed to trade.” On further adding to the group’s 11-strong estate, Finch said: “The major new site in the works that will be the equivalent of five typical Vagabonds. We’re solely focused on getting this launched properly. It’s simply too important. After that, we’ll return to finding new sites.” The business reported turnover of £7,427,211 in the year ending 27 March 2022, which represents a 224% increase on the 2021 figure of £2,294,781. In the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 March 2020, turnover stood at £6,352,004. Pre-tax losses narrowed from minus £1,818,015 in 2021 to minus £859,625 (2020: minus £1,699,101). Site Ebitda rose 366% from minus £369,431 in 2021 to £984,290 (2020: £721,662).
 
KFC UK & Ireland reports 27.7% year-on-year sales growth: KFC UK & Ireland saw a 27.7% year-on-year sales growth in the year to 26 December 2021, as turnover reached £292,915,000 (2020: £225,901). During 2021, the business said it built on the growth seen in the second half of 2020 with a variety of sales channels – delivery, drive thru, takeaway and dining in – allowing flex for customers to access KFC in line with government’s covid-19 guidance. The company said it saw year-on-year sales growth of existing restaurants of 27.7%, which came through rolling closures in 2020 due to covid-19, the continued growth of delivery aggregator sales and the reduction in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector. Turnover for the year comprised company stores sales of £152,792,000, franchise royalties and fees £117,940,000, and rendering of services £22,183,000. It said operating profits increased year-on-year to £120.3m (2020: £50.7m), impacting on the operating profit margin also increasing to 41%. However, excluding the impact of one-off items, operating profit was £103.5m (2020: £48.2m) and a margin of 35.3% was achieved (2020: 21.3%). 
 
Scoffs Group appoints Luke Daines group operations director: Scoffs Group – the largest Costa Coffee franchisee in the UK – has appointed Luke Daines in the newly created role of group operations director. Daines joined the multi-unit award-winning Scoffs Group on 6 January after nine years with Costa, most recently as retail franchise lead south, working with 13 franchise partners and more than 300 stores. He has also had stints at Greggs and Sainsbury’s. He will lead Scoffs Group’s end-to-end operations, from its established brands, such as Costa and Miss Millies, to its future operational partner brand developments. Daines said: “As we embark on a period of expansion, I am thrilled to be joining an outstanding team and building on the excellent operations that are already in place to enable the significant growth that lies ahead. I cannot wait to get out into our stores to speak to our teams about our plans for growth.” Paul Turner, chief operating officer at Scoffs Group, added: “Luke joins at a critical time in our growth journey. Not only to cement our operational practises within our existing trading stores, but to scope and grow our latest blue-chip brand partnerships we will soon announce. Luke’s varied and strong operational background will enable us to deliver even greater customer and colleague experience as we head into 2023 and beyond.”
 
Yummy founder and former BII chairman appointed non-executive director at Brighton brewery: Yummy founder and former British Institute of Innkeeping chairman Anthony Pender has been appointed non-executive director at Brighton brewery UnBarred, to help realise its growth plans. Pender joins the business, which has a brewery and taproom in the south coast town, as it increases it brewing capacity and eyes further development of its UK, international wholesale and direct-to-customer reach. Established in 2014 by head brewer Jordan Mower, UnBarred previously operated as a ‘gypsy brewing’ business – paying a fixed fee to brew at someone else’s venue to bridge the gap between home and commercial brewing. Pender said: “Having known the team since UnBarred moved into their current home in Brighton, it is fantastic to have the opportunity to work with them to further expand what is an exciting, authentic and creative brand. The team have developed a brand that captures the creative essence and spirit of independent Brighton. The way it adapted during covid, accelerating their commitment to quality across a breadth of styles without compromise while growing sales fivefold, was incredible to see.” Mower added: “Dav Sahota and I have known Anthony for a long time, and we’re delighted to have him join the UnBarred team. His commitment to the licensed on-trade is matched by his experience across beer and hospitality. Anthony joins our experienced management team, and we’re in a great space to continue innovating while representing the values that underpin the UnBarred brand.” Since October, Pender has been the sole founding partner at the helm of Yummy following the departures of Jason Rowlands and Tim Foster to pursue separate projects. The trio founded the company together in 2007.
 
Gunpowder co-founder to launch new disco-themed Indian restaurant: Harneet Baweja, the co-founder of home-style Indian kitchen concept Gunpowder, is to open a new disco-themed Indian restaurant Empire Empire in London’s Notting Hill. The Standard writes that Empire Empire will open its doors on All Saints Road in March and will serve food rooted in the Punjab region on the Indian subcontinent. It will also blast “Bollywood bangers” from a custom-made jukebox. Baweja said he wanted to create a restaurant that celebrates the “golden age of Indian music”. He said: “When disco became big in India, my dad would put on his silk floral shirt and bell-bottoms and hit the town — often eating, drinking and dancing all under one roof. This is my personal inspiration for Empire Empire. We wanted to bring the golden age of Indian music, art and food together in one place, and hope this makes for a unique spot in Notting Hill.” Gunpowder recently opened its first international site, in Lisbon, Portugal. The first Gunpowder restaurant opened in London’s Spitalfields in 2015, with a second site overlooking Tower Bridge launching in 2018, followed by a Soho site in September 2021. Jamie Harvie-Austin at Austin Commercial acted on the Notting Hill deal.
 
Jeremy Clarkson drops bid for restaurant at his Diddly Squat Farm: Jeremy Clarkson has dropped his bid for a restaurant on his Diddly Squat farm following a planning row. Sky News reports the broadcaster said in a letter to his local council that he “no longer wished” to open the dining venue at his Oxfordshire farm. It comes after Clarkson was ordered to shut the restaurant in August this year by West Oxfordshire District Council. The authority rejected planning permission for the restaurant, based in and around one of the farm’s barns, in January last year. Clarkson proceeded to open the restaurant in July, saying that he had found a “delightful little loophole” that allowed him to open the venue. But the authority then issued an enforcement notice, saying the opening of the restaurant represented a “material change of use”. Clarkson was told to shut the restaurant, or anything selling food to be consumed on the farm, and was also ordered to remove dining tables, chairs, parasols and picnic tables.
 
McDonald's franchisee Lonetree reports increased revenue and big jump in profits: McDonald’s franchisee Lonetree, which operates 15 stores in the South Wales region, employing more than 1,400 members of staff, has reported a strong year ended 31 December 2021, with positive turnover and profit growth as a result of both strong demand for delivery and a return to in-store dining. Revenue for the year was £63,891,763, a strong increase from the previous year’s figure of £42,104,052, while profit before taxation jumped from £1,678,691 to £6,068,640. By way of comparison, in the last pre-pandemic year ended December 2019, revenue was £51,362,109, with a pre-tax profit of £1,692,846. The total distribution of dividends for the year ended 31 December 2021 was £650,000. Director Ron Mounsey, a former dairy farmer who opened his first franchise in Camarthen in 1998, said: “Following some very challenging times, I am optimistic about the economic future. Customer confidence continues to rise and unemployment rates are falling. A cautious approach is still required as real disposable income is declining over the longer term as the cost of living continues to rise and, despite interest rates remaining at historic lows, they too are expected to rise.”
 
Essex KFC franchisee sees revenue far exceed pre-pandemic levels: KFC franchisee Kefco Sales, a major franchisee for KFC in the Essex area, reported a sharp increase in turnover and profits for the year ended 26 December 2021. The company, which was established in 1972 and is owned by J&J Restaurants, and currently operates 21 restaurants employing more than 800 people, produced a turnover of £49,037,655 compared to £34,390,046 in the year to December 2020, with a pre-tax profit of £5,356,166 (2020: £2,093,198). Ebitda rose to £7,439,595 (2020: £4,017,473). Turnover far exceeds pre-pandemic levels (2019: £33,374,661; 2018: £30,170,670). Financial director Andrew Hitch said in a statement accompanying the accounts: “The directors have considered the continuing impact of the coronavirus on the business. The company, in line with many other restaurants and businesses, and in line with the UK government guidance, restricted trading in the restaurants at certain times during the year. One restaurant, due to its location in a food court, remained closed until early May 2021. The company is now returning to sales levels expected before the pandemic and the directors expect this to continue and the company to remain a going concern.”
 
Iconic London neighbourhood restaurant Julie’s goes on the market, owners to retire after 50 years: Iconic London neighbourhood restaurant Julie’s has gone on the market following owners Tim and Cathy Herring’s decision to retire after running it for 50 years. The Herrings took on the Holland Park restaurant in 1972, three years after it was built on the site of a former builder’s yard by its original owner, interior designer Julie Hodgess. Former guests include The Beatles, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Kate Moss, Tina Turner, Sean Connery and Princess Diana. Tim Herring said: “They came to Julie’s, I hope, because it was a genuinely good restaurant in every sense, but also because they must have felt it was somewhere they belonged and could relax. We didn’t set out with that in mind, but we obviously did something right. The time has now come for us to retire and hopefully pass on the baton to new owners to cherish and take pride in Julie’s, as we have done for so many years.” Savills has been appointed to sell the venue in a package which includes the freehold of the premises, including the iconic terrace and the separate large maisonette above. Josh Leon, who specialises in the sale of Central London restaurants, added: “Julie’s is one of those places that’s earned a permanent place in London's restaurant pantheon. Putting the history to one side, the location of the restaurant is fantastic, especially with the terrace, and it has a very large laterally converted maisonette upstairs which can be accessed separately. I think there’s a good chance that someone will want to carry on the torch and buy into that rich history, continuing as Julie’s in some form. However, even as something completely new, I think the site itself will retain some of the magic.”
 
Hospitality company Green & Fortune still nearly 50% down on pre-pandemic revenues: Independent restaurant and hospitality company Green & Fortune has reported a sharp increase in revenue in the year to 31 March 2022 but is still falling way short of pre-pandemic figures. Turnover for the period was £6,977,554, a vast improvement compared to £1,677,697 in 2021 but nearly 50% down on the March 2020 figure of £13,129,333 – the last full year before the pandemic. The company recorded a loss before taxation of £420,404 for the reporting period (2021: loss of £1,632,522), and a positive Ebitda of £11,906 (2021: negative £1,172,331; 2020: positive £1,091,914). The company opened Rose Court Events on London’s South Bank in 2022 – following the opening of Kings Place Events in 2008, Sea Containers Events in 2017 and the announcement of a long-term catering partnership with Central Hall Westminster in 2020. In a statement accompanying the accounts, director John Nugent said the pandemic affected client confidence in all areas of the business, but that its ‘one team’ attitude across all sites ensured there was no effect on performance or standards. He added: “The group continues to have a market leading position with strong market share and healthy supplier partnerships. As a result, it is well placed to take advantage of the current opportunities in the market, in particular strong demand for its transparent and commercial approach to the traditional contract catering model.”
 
Waxy O’Connor operator returns to profit, turnover still far from pre-pandemic levels: Waxy O’Connor operator Glendola Holdings, which is owned by the Salussolia family, has reported a return to profit for the year ended March 2022 despite covid-19 continuing to have a significant impact on the business. The group, which proclaims itself to have “the best Irish bars in the world”, with venues in central London and Glasgow, achieved a turnover of £22,816,000 for the year compared to just £2,871,000 in the year to March 2021, with a profit before tax of £2,403,000 (2021: loss of £3,807,000) and a positive Ebitda of £4,864,000 (2021: negative £1,711,000). Turnover was still down on pre-pandemic levels (2020: £39,270,000; 2019: £38,917,000). During the period, the group successfully renewed its financing in July 2020, with the new facility for £26.7m expiring in December 2021. Additional facilities of £6m were attained as part of this refinancing, giving the group and its related parties access to total financing of £32.7m. In May 2021, the group extended the expiry date of the main facility of £26.7m. In addition, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme facility was increased from £6m to £8m, giving the group access to total funding of £34.7m, of which £26.4m has been utilised. In a statement accompanying the accounts, the company said covid and the war in Ukraine had both had significant impacts on the business. It added: “The group has faced more significant challenges as a result of higher energy costs, staffing availability, interest rate increases, high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. The management is continuously trying to manage and mitigate these various challenges.”
 
Gordon Ramsay-trained chef set to open new walk in-only burger restaurant in Birmingham: Gordon Ramsay-trained chef Jamie Desogus, owner of Birmingham British-cooking concept Harborne Kitchen, is set to launch a new walk in-only burger restaurant in the city. The Bun & Barrel, the brainchild of Harborne Kitchen’s Desogus and long-time friend Rob Hennerby, will open in Harborne on Friday, 20 January. Having met as bandmates at the age of 21, Hennerby went on to run restaurants across the world, while Desogus launched Harborne Kitchen in 2016. The restaurant, which took over the former The Butchers Social pop-up site in Harborne High Street, has gone on to feature in both The Good Food Guide and The Michelin Guide and was awarded a green star for its sustainability practices in the Michelin Guide Awards in 2021. The Bun & Barrel house burger will be made from Himalayan salt aged beef and infused with bone marrow, while the demi brioche bun will be made from scratch by the Harborne Kitchen team. Other highlights include a surf and turf burger, with confit and seared pork belly, scallop and a crab bun with soft shell tempura and mango and chilli salsa. There will also be locally brewed beers from Attic Brewery and a selection of barrel-aged cocktails and natural wines from Wine Freedom on draught. Desogus said: “We can’t wait to bring The Bun & Barrel to Harborne, it’s a super casual concept. We want people to really kick back and relax, grab a burger and a beer or cocktail, and maybe a game of pool. We’ll be using the very best ingredients, and with my pastry team at Harborne Kitchen making the demi brioche buns from scratch, I’m pretty confident we’ll be serving the best burgers on the block.”
 
Gymbox racks up further losses despite signs of recovery: London gym operator Gymbox saw a 30% increase in live membership numbers when it reopened following pandemic lockdown restrictions – but suffered losses of more than £8m, according to its accounts filed for the year ended 31 October 2021. The company, which was founded by in 2003, now has ten venues around London, featuring full-site boxing rings and combat cages as well as live DJs. It also launched an online offer, Out The Box, during the first lockdown. Revenue for the year was £8,775,001 compared to £14,051,440 for the year to October 2020, with a pre-tax loss of £8,250,216 (2020: loss of £43,682,189). Despite strong growth in membership levels and a good take-up of the online service following a partnership with CitizenM hotels, the company ended the year with net liabilities of £79.7m, and post year-end, agreed a restructure of its debt facilities. In a statement accompanying the accounts, director Scott Vernon said: “The focus for the year ahead is to deliver regrowth of the City locations...and improve member experience through the refurbishment of several clubs in the current estate. We’ll also continue to build a pipeline of new sites in London, key cities across the UK as well as internationally, where we have worked with our property partners to identify the key cities in Europe to launch the Gymbox concept. While post-pandemic London has obviously been challenging, the year ahead looks more positive as more businesses return to the city.”

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