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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 10th Jan 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sethi – we will look to explore turning Arcade Food Hall concepts into bricks-and-mortar brands: Jyotin Sethi, co-founder of JKS Restaurants, has said the business will explore turning some of the concepts it is operating in Arcade Food Hall sites into “their own kind of bricks and mortar or delivery brands”. JKS currently occupies the food concepts in the Arcade Food Hall site in London’s New Oxford Street and is set to do the same when a further Arcade Food Hall opens later this year at Battersea Power Station. Concepts at the New Oxford Street site include the Southern Thai-influenced Plaza Khao Gaeng, Indonesian street food format Bebek! Bebek! and the Nepali street food-focused Tipan Tipan. Plaza Khao Gaeng and the Soho-based Speedboat Bar have been developed in partnership with chef Luke Farrell. Sethi told Propel: “We’re very much working collaboratively with the owners of Arcade on the development of the physical food hall aspects of it, but also the branded element of it, in terms of the brands we’e incubating, and then looking to develop through the Arcade platform. Battersea is the second site, and we think it’s a great location for an Arcade to develop the physical aspect of it again, but we’re going to be looking to grow the brand portfolio at the same time. We will be exploring the physical manifestation of some of the brands that have been conceived in Center Point and then Battersea into their own kind of bricks and mortar or delivery brand. Plaza Khao Gaeng and Speedboat are part of our Thai business and are both within the partnership with Luke Farrell. The way those two have been creatively received so far, there’s a huge amount more creative ideas around brands within the Thai group that we’re looking to kind of push on with. We categorise Bao, Hoppers and Berenjak as our fine-casual portfolio and I expect that in terms of as a segment that's one we’re looking to grow (in 2023).” Sethi said the next 12 months was likely to be a period of consolidation in terms of the company’s fledgling two-strong pub business, although he said it would probably look at securing a new site to open at the end of this year or early in 2024. He added: “The plan is definitely to add to that portfolio.”

Industry News:

Next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature 692 companies: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, will feature 692 companies. The Blue Book, which will sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (13 January), shows almost 60% of the companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 406 companies in profit and 286 reporting losses. The Blue Book 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. 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.

McDonald’s UK to speak at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Andrew Moys, vice-president for communications and corporate affairs UK & Ireland, 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. Moys is part of the day two line-up and will talk about the evolution of the McDonald’s brand to build trust and have a sustained impact on the lives of others. 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

Single-use plastic cutlery and plates to be banned in England: Single-use items like plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene trays will be banned in England, the government has confirmed. It is not clear when the ban will come into effect, but it follows similar moves by Scotland and Wales, reports the BBC. Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said the move would help protect the environment for future generations. Government figures suggest 1.1 billion single-use plates and more than four billion pieces of plastic cutlery are used in England every year. Confirmation of the move from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) follows a long consultation, which will be published on Saturday (14 January). Each person in England uses an average of 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 items of plastic cutlery every year, according to DEFRA, with just 10% of them recycled. Coffey is set to ban a range of single-use plastic items mainly relating to takeaway food and drink. Similar bans have already been made in Scotland, while single-use plastic straws, stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds were already banned in England in 2020. Scotland introduced a ban on businesses using a range of single-use plastic goods in June last year. Laws for a similar ban in Wales were approved in December and will come into force later in 2023. The latest measure does not, however, cover items found in supermarkets or shops. The government said it would address those by other means.

UKHospitality again calls for late-night levy to be abolished as Home Office launches consultation into charge: UKHospitality has again called for the late-night levy to be abolished as the Home Office launches a consultation into the charge. The government said it was consulting “on the level of charge to be applied to late-night refreshment premises in order to commence legislative changes made to the late-night levy”. In response, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The ineffective and costly late-night levy continues to stifle the recovery of the night-time economy, which was among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Now is not the time to extend the levy and the economic harm it inflicts on our late-night venues, taking £365,000 from the industry last year. Instead, the levy should be abolished in order to free up much-needed cash for businesses to invest in their business or, in many cases, simply stay afloat. Some cities across the UK have reached that conclusion themselves, taking the decision to remove the levy, and the House of Lords Committee is of the same view; concluding the levy had failed to achieve its objectives and should be abolished. The night-time economy is part of the fabric of towns and cities across the country, attracting thousands of visitors and raising millions for the economy. I’d urge the government to remove the levy as soon as possible to allow the night-time economy to flourish, recognising all the benefits it brings to local areas.” The late-night levy is currently in place in Newcastle, Southampton, Chelmsford and in several London boroughs (Hackney, Camden, Tower Hamlets, Islington and City of London). It has been removed from Nottingham and Cheltenham.

SEC charges former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook with misleading investors about his firing: Former McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook has been charged with misrepresenting his November 2019 firing from the global fast-food brand. The UK-born Easterbrook has agreed to a $400,000 fine, without admitting or denying the claims, and will be barred from serving as an officer or director for any Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-reporting company for five years. McDonald’s fired Easterbrook in 2019 for a consensual relationship with an employee, which violated the company’s fraternisation policy. However, he wasn’t fired for cause, allowing him to receive a severance package. Months later, the company sued him, claiming he committed fraud and lied to cover up other inappropriate relationships with employees. In December 2021, the two parties settled, and McDonald’s successfully clawed back Easterbrook’s severance, valued at $105m. The SEC said Easterbrook knew or was reckless in not knowing that his failure to disclose additional violations of company policy before his firing would influence McDonald’s disclosures to investors related to his exit and compensation. “When corporate officers corrupt internal processes to manage their personal reputations or line their own pockets, they breach their fundamental duties to shareholders, who are entitled to transparency and fair dealing from executives,” said Gurbir Grewal, the SEC director of the Division of Enforcement.  “By allegedly concealing the extent of his misconduct during the company’s internal investigation, Easterbrook broke that trust with – and ultimately misled – shareholders.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a leisure company with several venues across London and the UK that is looking for a head of sales. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “As head of sales, you will be strategic, motivational, proven and passionate. People will be key, and you will thrive in a role that enables team and individual success. You will be able to develop and deliver structured growth across key sectors and achieve key targets. As we know, good salespeople are all about relationships and this will be exactly that. You will be able to identify synergies and create opportunities while contributing heavily to the direction and growth of the overall business.” The salary for the position is up to £90,000 and is based in central London. For more information, email sophie@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Tortilla – we’re refocusing on in-house business, delivery now 30% of sales: Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, has told Propel the business is refocusing on in-house service and standards, and that delivery is now 30% of sales. Morris said: “We’ve got a bit of experience around working in our fairly volatile market now, so we are really rebooting all of our customer focus stuff. My experiences of running businesses in downturns are that customers are generally more choosy about where they go. They go where it’s the most consistent, they go where it’s the best value, they go where they really feel comfortable and guarantee they’re going to have a good time. We’re bringing in a whole new mystery diner programme, focusing very much around the consumer. We’ve done a lot of work on delivery over the last couple of years and we want to refocus our in-house service. We’re having quite a big push around through-put, speed of service, environments and making sure the customer standing in front of you remains the number one priority as opposed to the printer sitting next to you. And that’s quite difficult because 30% of our sales is still delivery, but we really want to grow our in-house sales. We are doing quite a bit of work now on some menu development, which we haven’t done for years, predominantly because of covid. We’re hoping in the second half of the year that we’ll be able to build some new menu items, which we’re very excited about. We are under no illusions, and I’m sure everyone will say the same, that the next couple of months will still be quite tough, but we are seeing a softening in some of our utility prices and some of our food costs. Things feel like they are settling down a little bit, and we are still in a good place.” Morris said the company was also continuing to “push very hard” on its franchise relationships. He said: “We’re very good franchise business, we perform extremely well with SSP and Compass. We are continuing to grow with those guys, and we are starting to have some conversations around European opportunities. We’ve got a good business in the Middle East, and that’s performing well with our franchise partner Ethos. Franchising is a very good way of growing your brand quite quickly at relatively low capex. That’s a big focus for us. Our bread and butter continues to be company-owned sites, and we've got some great sites that we’re already locked in for the beginning of this year.” Of the eight-strong Chilango, which the business acquired last year, it has so far converted five to Tortilla and is currently refurbishing the remaining three, while also looking at running a dual menu of the two brands through its dark kitchens after a trial late last year. Morris said: “We are still looking at the best ways to utilise that brand (Chilango) alongside Tortilla.”
 
Punch delivers ‘solid financial performance’ as underlying liquidity position ‘remains healthy’: Punch Pubs & Co, the Fortress Investment Group business, said it delivered a “sold financial performance” in the year to 14 August 2022 as it continued to rebound from the impact of covid-19 and looks to further add to its management partnerships estate. The circa-1,270-strong, Clive Chesser-led business said revenue increased 94% to £284.4m (2021: £146.4m), primarily due to the impact in 2021 of the covid-19 pandemic and related government restrictions. Ebitda increased by 192% to £77.7m (2021: £43.9m), which it said was primarily attributable to the rebound in drink, food and accommodation revenue following lost trading in 2021 due to pub closures and trading restrictions. Also contributing to the increased Ebitda was the increase in rental income at £29.5m (2021: £15.4m) following “significant additional discretionary financial support” provided to its publicans in 2021 to support them through the period of closure and on reopening. Underlying Ebitda, which excludes the impact of non-underlying costs of £5.5m (2021: £1.7m), increased by 194% to £83.2m (2021: £28.3m). The company made a pre-tax profit of £19.7m in the year (2020: (£29.4m)). The company said: “Sales have recovered well since the reopening of pubs in 2021 following the national lockdowns implemented in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Trade in the year was however negatively impacted by rising covid-19 cases during December 2021 and the introduction of the government’s Plan B restrictions which had a negative impact on the group’s Christmas trading period. Notwithstanding the challenging operating environment, we believe we delivered a solid financial performance, and the underlying liquidity position of the group remains healthy.” As of 14 August 2022, Punch operated 330 (or approximately 26%) of its pubs under its management partnerships model. It said: “We first introduced the MP operating model in the 2015 financial year and have since refined and optimised the model, while gradually converting former leased and tenanted (L&T) pubs. We aim to increase the number of MP pubs in our estate via a programme of conversions, with a pipeline of additional sites already identified within our current L&T estate for transition to this operating model.” During the year, it spent £34.3m (2021: £25.8m) on expansionary and maintenance capital, which included 64 transformational investments in converting pubs from L&T over to its Management Partnerships estate. The company said it had capital investments on its estate totalling £212.9m, including pub acquisitions, over the five financial years to 14 August 2022, to enhance the overall quality of the portfolio. Its property assets increased by £10.1m in the year to £895.3m (2021: £884.9m). At 14 August 2022, the nominal value of the group’s net debt (excluding lease liabilities) was £617.3m (2021: £602.4m), an increase of £14.9m. The group had £52.7.m of available liquidity at the 14 August 2022 year-end date, represented by £12.7m of cash balances and £40m remaining undrawn against its revolving credit facility.

Pieminister turnover almost back to pre-pandemic levels, franchise model to ‘unlock significant growth opportunities in UK and abroad’: Pie and mash restaurant operator Pieminister has reported turnover almost back to pre-pandemic models, as it plans to “unlock significant growth opportunities in UK and abroad” through a franchise model. The company reported turnover of £5,557,000 for the year ending 31 March 2022, a 249% increase on the 2021 figures of £2,235,000. The 2021 figures have since been restated to £11,257,000 following a company restructure in April 2021, which saw the assets, liabilities and trading activities of the wholesale business transferred from Pieminister into Pieminister Kitchens. Turnover was 92% of the pre-pandemic figure of £6,046,000 in 2020, although the 2020 figure has now also been restated to £17,264,000. In his report accompanying the accounts, director Gonzalo Trujillo said: “The directors have agreed that developing the Pieminister restaurant package as a franchise would unlock significant growth opportunities in the UK and abroad over the coming years. During the pandemic and the period under review, the team have been carefully distilling the essence of the model and created a compelling franchise package. The works have been completed with the aid of HSBC franchising division and Seeds consulting agency, who both have extensive experience in franchising restaurant brands in these regions. The preliminary works were completed during this period and marketing of the opportunity began towards the end of the year. The multiple spheres in which Pieminister pies and products can be purchased has helped introduce many people to the brand, its values and great tasting products. This has grown awareness across the UK and unlocked a unique opportunity to accelerate the roll out of Pieminister restaurants through franchising.” The company made a pre-tax loss of £140,000 compared to a profit of £676,000 in 2021, which again includes trading activities since the transfer to sister company Pieminister Kitchens. It reported Ebitda of £28,000 (2021: £1,964,000) while capital expenditure was £18,000 (2021: £199,000) and gross margin stayed at 20%. The company said that during the Christmas 2021 period, it lost 90% of party bookings due to Omicron. Trujillo added: “With a continued commitment to innovation in pies, complementary products, and creative, impactful marketing initiatives, coupled with an action and data driven commitment to reducing its impact on the planet, Pieminister is ideally positioned to become a unique restaurant proposition on the many of the high streets across the country.”

Fridays relaunches loyalty scheme: Fridays has relaunched its loyalty scheme, with the ‘Stripes Programme’ being set up “to reward customers for their individuality”. Stripes members can now earn loyalty points in the form of ‘Stripes’ from a variety of always-on offers, as well as membership benefits throughout the year. Stripes can now be earned on all menu items and Fridays customers can redeem up to £150 worth of free food and drink in a year. Customers can earn one ‘Stripe’ for every £1 spent on all menu items and all Fridays “favourites” are available from 25 stripes. Members will also be able to access exclusive celebration treats throughout the year, including birthday and half-birthday celebrations, where they can get free cocktails for themselves and up to five friends twice a year. Rewards are also tailored to individual tastes, including those for visiting three times during weekday lunchtimes, and for visiting after 8pm at weekends. More unlockable reward pins will be available throughout 2023. The rewards scheme revamp follows on from the brand’s latest ‘Show your Stripes’ campaign, since which the app has seen a 75% uplift in downloads. Rhiannon Scarlett, chief marketing officer, said: “The changes made reflect market trends for simplified reward schemes with an easier-to-access value proposition. Customers now have immediate accessibility to the scheme and can earn instant rewards, through a programme that is far more tailored to individual preferences. The scheme enables us to reward individuals’ behaviour rather than just what they spend in store.”

Whitbread confirms appointment of Dame Karen Jones as non-executive director: Whitbread has confirmed the appointment of Dame Karen Jones as a non-executive director. Dame Karen will also join the remuneration committee. Whitbread stated: “Dame Karen Jones is senior independent director at Deliveroo and chair at both Hawksmoor and Mowgli Street Food, having previously served as executive chair at Prezzo and senior independent director at Booker. Karen has a wealth of experience in the restaurant, food and hospitality sectors having founded Cafe Rouge and led the formation of Spirit Group as chief executive. Karen also has strong experience in executive remuneration, having previously chaired the remuneration committees at ASOS and Booker.” Whitbread chairman Adam Crozier added: “Karen has had a stellar career in the hospitality sector and will be a great asset to the Whitbread board.”

Arkell’s chairman – smaller turnover pubs with regular ale drinking customers have all but disappeared, turnover now above pre-pandemic levels: Arkell’s chairman James Arkell has said smaller turnover pubs with a regular ale drinking customer base have all but disappeared in their historic form. Arkell was writing in his chairman’s report accompanying the Swindon brewer and retailer’s accounts for the year ending 31 March 2022, which showed turnover returning to pre-pandemic levels. Revenue was £22,395,062 compared to £7,720756 in 2021 and £23,609,634 in 2020. Since the year-end, sales have been above pre-pandemic levels, enhanced by the opening of its first new-build pub in almost 20 years – The Strawberry Thief in Tadpole Garden Village, Wiltshire – for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend. Pre-tax profits also rose to £3,500,038 from £1,998,962 in 2021 and £1,953,143 in 2020. This included the sale of the Cycle Club pub in Swindon and the remaining two flats at the Fox Highworth. “The stars all aligned in this year’s terrific results, that we shall struggle to repeat for quite a while, I suspect, looking at our brewery and pubs’ astronomic fuel bills!” said Arkell. “The smaller turnover pubs that had a regular ‘ale’ drinking customer base (seven days a week) have all but disappeared in that historic form. Three years of forced lockdowns/outside only/masks etc has shaken the roots of draught ale drinkers in our business. Those core customers have not returned in generality…not all pubs have returned to always being open seven days a week day and night. We have had a slow drip feed of closures resulting in sales. Sadly, some of our large (physically) older pubs – Duke of Edinburgh, Swindon; Boundary House, Swindon; Stratton Reform Club, Swindon; Cycle Club, Swindon – have just become unviable to trade and to let. So, you could call this churning, however it is still painful for a small family firm like us.” The company received £423,426 in government grants compared to £2,064,671 in 2021. It was also able to pass on £500,000 in rent reductions to its tenants. During the year, the company reduced the capital outstanding on its bank loans by £585,845. Since the year end, the company borrowed a further £3.6m to acquire The Eliot Arms in South Cerney and complete building works at The Strawberry Thief. The company added: “Inflationary pressure on our costs, our tenants and those of our customers are likely to apply downward pressure on profitability in the year to 31 March 2023. The directors continue to plan for the future and the estate is under constant review. Investment to improve and refurbish our existing estate will continue and acquisitions will be made when they enhance the quality and profitability of our business. Underperforming pubs will be sold or converted if it is believed if it is believed additional investment in them will not generate an appropriate return.”

Mark McQuater-chaired Deckhouse concept lines up second site: Deckhouse, the new all-day dining cafe and bar concept chaired and backed by Mark McQuater, the former chief executive of Revolution and Barracuda, has lined up a second site, in Kent. The business, which launched with an opening on the ex-Bill’s site in Cheapside, Taunton, last month, has lined up an opening in Sevenoaks as part of plans to have 18 sites within five years. Propel understands the company is gearing up to take on its second former Bill’s site, this time in the Kent town’s Lady Boswell House, Meadow Shopping Centre. The concept launched with a goal of providing the “best of British at Deckhouse” and “support local and national British businesses and provide customers with a quality experience”. Last September, Propel revealed Deckhouse had initial funding of £2m in place, with a plan of initially developing three to four sites in 2023 and 18 sites within five years. The business is targeting towns with “more than 20,000 people or higher quality smaller demographics”. The concept, which “combines coffee, restaurant and bar culture”, plans to serve “affluent under serviced quality market towns and suburbs in the south of England, home counties and the southern Midlands”. Alongside McQuater, who is also currently chair of Roxy Leisure, the Deckhouse management team comprises Tom Cullen, former director of property at Barracuda Group, who has also held senior positions in Mitchells & Butlers and Greenalls, as property director; Dominic Doherty, formerly of Revolution de Cuba and Ivy Collections, as operations director; and Nick Morgan, formerly chief financial officer at Barracuda Group and Port Haven Care Homes, as finance director.

Laine Pub Company sees Ebitda exceed pre-pandemic levels as turnover passes £50m: Laine Pub Company has reported Ebitda increased to £6,623,000 for the year ending 14 August 2022 from £211,000 the previous year as it builds back from the covid pandemic. Ebitda also exceeded the £4,075,000 posted in 2019 – the last full year before the pandemic. Turnover was up to £51,109,000 from £28,212,000 the year before, with the business still affected by covid restrictions during the period. It also exceeded the £43,007,000 reported in 2019. Pre-tax profit increased to £2,115,000 from £560,000 (2019: £6,909,000). At the end of the period the group operated 56 pubs across Brighton, Birmingham and London, up from 53 the year before. Post-year end, the company acquired Redchurch Brewery in Harlow, Essex, for its The Laine Brewing Company business, and volumes across its operations are expected to exceed 24,000 hectolitres in 2023. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Sales have recovered well since the reopening of pubs in 2021 following the national lockdowns. Notwithstanding the challenging operating environment, we believe we delivered a solid financial performance, and the underlying liquidity position of the group remains healthy.” The business received government grants of £231,000 (2021: £2,320,000). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). The group also operates four pubs in its Mash Inns partnership with Stonegate.

BrewDog boss pays out £500,000 to ‘solid gold’ can promotion winners: James Watt, co-founder of Scottish Brewer and retailer BrewDog, has said he paid out almost £500,000 to winners of the company’s misleading ‘solid gold’ beer can promotion. Watt said he made “some costly mistakes” in a promotion which offered people the chance to find a solid gold can hidden in cases in 2021. Some winners questioned the worth of the cans and complained after discovering they were gold-plated. Mr Watt admitted he “falsely thought” the cans were made from solid gold, saying he “misunderstood the process of how they were made” and made a “silly mistake” by saying in initial promotional tweets that the cans were solid gold. The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaints from several winners and Watt said he had contacted all 50 to offer them the “full cash amount” as an alternative to the prize.

Gino D’Acampo to open upmarket Italian restaurant and bar at Leeds hotel: Chef Gino D’Acampo is to open a new upmarket Italian restaurant and bar at the recently refurbished Leeds Marriott Hotel. The opening heralds the first of a number of new signings for the hotel and leisure company, further to striking a partnership with Marriott Hotels International and Hamilton-Pyramid Europe. D’Acampo’s latest project will see an investment of £1.5m in the building with the new venue to open this spring, creating 52 jobs. It will feature a marble bar complete with lounge area, a cicchetti bar, deli, a 160-seater open plan restaurant and an outdoor terrace. Guests of the hotel will also be able to enjoy in-room dining prepared by the restaurant. The restaurant is D’Acampo’s sixth opening in less than two years and follows launches in Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, London, and Alderley Edge – all part of his strategy to set up further upmarket restaurants in major UK and affluent suburbs. D’Acampo said: “I have a long relationship with the city having opened one of my first restaurants in Leeds almost eight years ago, and I’m thrilled to return with the opening of my new upmarket Italian restaurant and bar, which I promise will be something else.” Alan Malloy, general manager at the hotel, added: “Our goal is to bring the very best choice in upmarket dining to our hotel guests and local audience. Our partnership with Gino D’Acampo could not be a better fit.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen reports like-for-like growth of 15% over festive period: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has reported like-for-like growth of 15% during the festive period versus last year. The company said the success can be attributed to not only taking full advantage of the first Christmas unmarred by covid restrictions since 2019, but the “strength of the brand, a strong and competitive festive offer and the incredible hard work of the brewpub teams”. Further to the growth of sales at a brewpub level, the group also secured 43% like-for-like growth of webshop gift card sales versus 2021. This was driven by several factors including the success of a new Black Friday campaign and the further development of the range of experiences the group has on offer including a new whisky and beer pairing one. Despite the strong sales line, the company did have a number of brewpubs affected by rail strikes in London and the south east, which it said was “disappointing”. Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “Our Academy gift card sales are a great boost for our business. We will see the majority redeemed in the first quarter, bringing new guests into Brewhouse & Kitchen, which will give our brewpubs an important uplift as we move into 2023. Experiences as gifts continue to show important growth. Like the rest of the sector, our profitability is impacted by the extraordinary pressure presented by energy and food costs. The whole sector is running to stand still and we will need to see more support, particularly on energy, as well as level playing field for business rates, if we are to have a vibrant, well invested, job creating leisure and hospitality industry in the UK.”

EL&N eyes Manchester opening: High-class cafe brand EL&N, which made its UK regional debut in Scotland at the end of last year, is eyeing up a second opening outside London, in Manchester. Propel understands that the business, which was founded in 2017 by Alexandra Miller, is set to take space in the city’s Circle Square development. It is thought that the business could look to introduce a tweaked version of its concept, under the title Fiori by EL&N, into the space. EL&N currently operates 23 stores across Europe and the Middle East including ten in London, six in Saudi Arabia and two in Kuwait. It also has stores in Paris, Milan, Doha, and Dubai.

SSP increases female representation on board to 50%, a third of own-brand meals now plant-based: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has increased the female representation on its board of directors to 50%, up 21% on 2021, with 36% of women in senior leadership roles, up 5% on 2021. A third of the group’s own-brand meals are now also plant-based, while single-use plastic has been removed from approximately 80% of its own brand packaging. The achievements are among the highlights of SSP’s first standalone Sustainability Report, covering the financial year 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022. Other key achievements include 67% of hot drinks served by SSP-owned brands being certified to standards such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance, and more than 387,000 meals saved from going to landfill via the Too Good To Go food app. The group also achieved a 36% reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions (versus 2029 baseline) and completed mapping of its Scope 3 emissions and development of its net zero roadmap. Patrick Coveney, group chief executive of SSP, said: “Our new sustainability strategy represents a step-change to our approach, and I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in 2022. I truly believe that together, working in partnership with our clients, brand partners and suppliers, we can drive positive change across the food travel sector.”

Marugame Udon to open first UK transport hub site, to include first breakfast offer: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon will open its first UK transport hub site at London’s Waterloo Station later this week (Thursday, 12 January), complete with its first breakfast offer. The new 3,110 square-foot restaurant, the brand’s eight in the UK since its debut here last year, will be located inside Waterloo’s main station and will feature 108 covers. It will also feature a range of breakfast specials, sandos, and breakfast tempura. To celebrate the opening, the business has partnered with Bandai, creators of the digital pet toy Tamagotchi, to launch a competition to win prizes including free breakfast for a year if guests can keep their original Tamagotchi alive. Keith Bird, chief executive of Marugame Udon Europe, said: “We are really excited to be expanding again in 2022, this time at Waterloo station. We chose the Waterloo site to be in the centre of the hustle and bustle of London’s largest station to introduce udon to all. Our Udon kitchens are growing throughout London and our casual dining concept will fit perfectly into the liveliness of our newest location in Waterloo.” Last month, Propel revealed that the company had secured further support from its existing backers to accelerate its growth in the UK and Europe. The business, which is a European joint venture backed by Capdesia and Toridoll (the brand owner), opened its first site here near Liverpool Street, in the City of London, last July. It has further openings lined up in Liverpool Street Station, The Strand, Kensington Arcade and Reading.

Merlin begins operations at Cadbury World: Merlin Entertainments has commenced operation of Cadbury World in Birmingham following the completion of a deal that sees it acquire the attraction’s operating and brand licenses. Propel reported in February last year that the exclusive partnership with Mondelēz International will make Merlin responsible for the day-to-day running of the site, its employees and all operational decisions, as well as holding brand usage rights for Cadbury World in the UK. Opened in 1990, Cadbury World currently attracts more than 600,000 visitors every year. Fiona Eastwood, chief operating officer for Midway Attractions and Resort Theme Parks at Merlin Entertainments, said: “This addition to our strong portfolio of brands is an evolution of our long-standing partnership with Cadbury across a range of experiential activities and retail spaces in our UK theme parks, and forms part of our ongoing strategy of partnering with household name IPs to create exciting immersive experiences for our guests around the world. We are excited to welcome the Cadbury World team into Merlin and work closely with them to accelerate the attraction’s momentum.”

London catering company set to open first permanent site: London catering company Spook London is set to open its first permanent site next month. The restaurant and wine bar, Archway, will open in a former railway arch at Arch 65 in Queens Circus, Battersea, in February. Former River Cafe chef Alex Owens will lead a menu of old and new world wine and seasonal dishes.

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