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Fri 13th Jan 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Floozie Cookies aiming for 180 stores worldwide by 2027, including 35 in UK: Floozie, the all-vegan stuffed cookie concept founded by Kimberly Lin in 2020, is aiming for 180 stores worldwide by 2027, including 35 in the UK. The concept, which is backed by Game Changers Investments, was founded in 2020 by Lin, who earned her stripes working in some of the best kitchens in London including Claridge’s, Corinthia and Dominique Ansel. In November last year, Floozie, which launched in London’s Covent Garden in December 2020 before expanding to Dubai, revealed plans to expand internationally and in the UK under a franchise model. It opened a second London site, a pop-up near Harrods, in January last year. In a five-year forecast in its new franchise prospectus, Floozie said it aims to grow to 19 stores worldwide in 2023, then to 180 by the end of 2027. The sites will be a mixture of flagship stores and kiosks located in malls, city centres and tourist locations. Of these, it aims to have five company-owned and 30 franchised stores in the UK by the end of 2027. Other target markets include the US, Canada, UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. As a 100% vegan concept and the UK’s only stuffed cookie brand, Floozie is aiming to capitalise both on the 350% growth in vegan numbers in the UK over the last decade, and on a global cookie market growing at 5.3% per annum and worth an estimated $44bn by 2025. All cookies are handmade daily – with flavours including pecan pie, cinnamon crunch and gluten-free peanut butter with raspberry jam – as well as offering seasonal menus and monthly specials. The company said some 64% of its customers are Generation Y (25-40), with 30% Generation Z (nine-24) and 6% Generation X (41-56). The company is 100% vegan but 66% of customers are non-vegan, with 23% vegan and 11% flexitarian. Lin said: “Despite only opening in December 2020, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response and have seen tremendous growth, with shops planned across the rest of the GCC and the USA, and nationwide delivery now available in the UK. We’ve also expanded our range to seven cookies, plus a monthly special, along with a range of ice cream sundaes. I remember seeing my first cookie shop years ago and thinking what a wonderful idea it was, but never dreamt I’d have my own. We make everything from scratch and combine the freshest ingredients to create the most delicious tasting cookies, and we have a lot of fun doing it.”
 

Industry News:

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book being sent to Premium subscribers today: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 13 January), at midday. The Blue Book now features 692 companies, while figures have been updated for 99 businesses. 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 more than 650 of the UK’s top 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, and regular columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett. This week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers today at 5pm, will include Mark Lilley, co-founder and chief executive of Abokado and Chiktopia, looking at the tech transformation of the sector and how its saved his business, while sector analyst Simon Stenning examines the changing landscape of the UK foodservice market in 2023 and beyond.
 
Chestnut Group to speak at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Tori Dexter, head of growth at Chestnut Group, 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. Dexter will discuss 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 McDonald’s UK, Burger King UK, Cornish Bakery, Gail’s Bakery, The Alchemist, Hawksmoor, Caprice Holdings, Searcy’s, Press Up Hospitality Group, Vapiano, Popeyes UK, Inception Group, Oakman Group, New World Trading Company, 200 Degrees, 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 and Flat Earth Pizzas. 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
 
NTIA slams government’s view that there is no need for specific spiking offence: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has slammed the government’s view that there is no need for a specific spiking offence following its inquiry. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “While the suggestion is the police and legislation are equipped to deal with these heinous crimes, the evidence and data gathering preceding October 2021 proved extremely hard to track and assess, with many of these crimes hidden against the crimes of sexual assault or robbery, particularly as the window of evidence gathering and reporting is so short. Some of the key asks by the association during the Home Affairs inquiry on spiking is the requirement for a national overt campaign targeting perpetrators, a national training scheme but most importantly to create a clear process for these crimes to be managed by the police and operators in licensed and non-licensed environments, considering the importance of data in gaining a greater understanding of the characteristics of the people who carry out these crimes, prevalence, locations etc. This is hugely short sighted by the government and will without doubt still retain legacy issues in reporting and data gathering as seen pre October 2021.”
 

Company News: 

BrewDog reveals plans to open more than 100 bars in India: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has revealed plans to open more than 100 bars in India in the next decade, making it the company’s most significant market in the medium term. The group has already opened three sites in the country with franchise partner, Ace Hospitality – Mumbai Midtown, Mumbai Bandra and Gurugram with two more launching in the first quarter of this year – in Amritsar and Chandigarh. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “I am just back from a trip to India and I am excited about the prospects for both BrewDog and craft beer there. We are already brewing more than ten different BrewDog beers in India, which we currently sell in kegs in our bars – this means a much lower carbon footprint than exporting from Scotland and much fresher beer for our Indian customers. Working with our local partners, we are building plans that would see India become our most significant market globally over the medium term. We are building plans to open more than 100 BrewDog bars in India over the next decade as well as putting both our beer and our spirits into wholesale channels by the middle of 2023. Craft beer grew 127% in India in the last year and hospitality grew by more than 11% in the same period and with 1.4 billion people in India the potential for further growth is huge. We believe within five years India will be our most important international market. I also love spending time in India and I can’t wait to go back!”
 
Aviary Hospitality set for further growth after securing investment partner: Aviary Hospitality, owner of the Chicken & Blues and Flamingo Café Bar brands, has secured a strategic partnership with Daizun Investments as it looks to expand its estate in 2023, with further food and beverage concepts in development. Daizun Investments, founded as a family office, was established to deploy its own capital to offer flexible funding options to British small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as supporting innovative start-ups. Earlier this month, Aviary acquired the south coast operator James & White Group. Through the deal, Aviary, which was formed in 2020 by entrepreneurs Joshua Simons and Steve Crawford, will open a third regional location for Chicken & Blues in the heart of Christchurch, alongside a beach-side second home for its Miami-inspired neighbourhood cae concept, Flamingo Café Bar, which debuted in Bournemouth in 2021, and is now set to launch in Boscombe Spa. Crawford said: “Having shown resilience throughout the pandemic, we remain ambitious and buoyant despite the headwinds of the current macroeconomic climate. By partnering with Daizun Investments, we unlock a series of opportunities for expansion, starting with our recently announced acquisition of James & White Group. We’re thrilled Daizun’s team shares our vision for continuing to grow Aviary Hospitality into an exciting company that attracts exceptional talent, and provides guests with unique, shareable, and memorable experiences.” James Edwards, co-founder of Daizun Investments, added: “We’re a boutique investment company with an entrepreneurial background and so we relish working with founders to help finance their growth and brands. We were quick to see the high-impact model Steve and Joshua have implemented across both Chicken & Blues and Flamingo and confident in coming on board to help fund their expansion.”
 
Jollibee looks to consolidate UK estate: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, is looking to consolidate its 12-strong UK estate, after placing a third of it on the market. Propel understands Jollibee, which made its UK debut in 2018, has offered to the market four of its sites, including those in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool. The business opened five sites in the UK in 2022, and the same number the year before. In 2021, Jollibee, which operates about 1,200 sites worldwide, said it planned to be in “every major city in the UK”. It said it would invest £30m to open 50 sites in Britain by 2025 and expects to invest almost £1m per site. In its latest accounts, it reported its UK turnover increased to £11,029,351 for the year ending 31 December 2021, compared with £3,853,159 the year before. Pre-tax losses were up to £4,012,151 from £2,001,138 the previous year. Last August, Adam Parkinson, who had been overseeing the Jollibee’s growth in the UK, stepped down after three years as vice-president, market head, Europe, for the brand, with Rodel Alcantara, subsequently named business head of Jollibee Europe.
 
Gilkes – Christmas was good and tourism market is back, reveals details of first Soho-based Mr Fogg’s: Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the Inception Group, has told Propel the 13-strong business had a good Christmas despite trade in the week impacted by the train strikes being down 25% on what the business would expect to take. Gilkes said: “Christmas was good overall. In that third week with the strikes, we were down 25% on what we expected to take – a good amount of it has transferred to January – but it was still a strong Christmas. We’re up on 2019. Like everyone, obviously, there are headwinds and cost pressures at the moment, but I think consumers are enjoying a differentiated offer. I think London, probably there was a period, coming out of covid, where everyone was talking about out of town. Now London feels like the tourism market is really back, so not all our eggs are in the kind of UK economy basket. The full trading week between Christmas and new year also helped. I think with Christmas trading now people are celebrating earlier. It’s almost like they don’t want to do things too close to Christmas. I don’t know if it’s a hangover from covid but Christmas feels like it is starting earlier and finishing earlier. Gilkes was speaking as the business revealed details of the first opening in Soho for its Mr Fogg’s brand. As revealed by Propel last year, Inception Group will open the venue on the former Venise L’Entrecote at 50 Dean Street. Mr Fogg’s Pawnbrokers will open on Wednesday, 22 February. The 140-capacity venue will be separated into three areas: The Pawnbrokers Counter, The Strong Room and The Textiles Store.
 
Berkeley Inns secures debut London site: Berkeley Inns, the award-winning, Derbyshire gastropub operator, has secured its debut London site. The company has acquired the lease of The Rugby Tavern in Bloomsbury through Fleurets and the pub will form part of a new London division. The pub group was established in November 2014, and now also operates the Horseshoes in Long Lane Village, Derbyshire; The Cow in Dalbury Lees; and the Bluebell Inn in Kirk Langley. Its aim “is to revitalise great properties, recapturing the atmosphere of the local pub alongside a high-quality food offer”. Berkeley Inns is planning to make a “significant” investment throughout The Rugby Tavern. The landlord, The Governing Body of Rugby School, was represented by Tandem Property Asset Management while Berkeley Inns was represented by Panayiotis Themistocli, of AG&G.
 
Lucky Voice reports best ever Christmas, planning three openings this year: Lucky Voice, the social entertainment brand, has reported its best ever Christmas trading period, with average spend per head up 9% on 2019 levels. The company, which operates three sites in London, and one each in Brighton and Dubai, reported a 5% increase in sales for the six weeks over the festive season versus 2019, with the five weeks excluding the week of the strikes, up 12%. It also recorded its best week in any venue, at its Holborn site, which beat the previous best by 3%. Propel also understands that Wednesday (11 January) in Soho was in the company’s top ten Wednesdays ever, with sales up 36% on its previous best midweek performance in January. It comes as the company gears up to open a new £1.2m site in London’s Liverpool Street this month, with plans to open a further two sites by the end of this year. The business, which last year set out plans to double the size of its five-strong estate over the next two years, will open the 4,800 square-foot ground floor unit in the new Devonshire Square development in February. Charlie Elek, managing director at Lucky Voice, told Propel the buzz the business is creating, especially around the new opening, was helping with potential conversations with landlords. He said the main focus would be on growth in the UK, which would be company-owned, but the business continued to look at franchise options internationally. He said: “We have a few irons in the fire for 2023. Like Liverpool Street, we are looking at key central London transport hubs. We are pretty close on a site that we will be looking to open in May/June and then the plan is to open another one before Christmas. The main focus will be on London, but also exploring regional opportunities, particularly in Birmingham and Manchester.”
 
Greene King lines up first Hickory’s conversion: Brewer and retailer Greene King, led by Nick Mackenzie, has lined up the first conversion site to the American-style smokehouse and barbecue Hickory’s Smokehouse brand, which it acquired last October. Propel has learned The High Park Pub & Grill in Bradley Road, Huddersfield, has been chosen to become the 18th site under the Hickory’s brand. A Greene King spokesperson told Propel: “We are delighted to announce Huddersfield will soon have its own Hickory’s Smokehouse after the conversion of High Park. We have notified the team at the pub of this exciting development for the venue, which will see it close in February to undergo a significant investment before reopening this summer.” Greene King acquired Hickory’s, which had been backed by private equity firm Piper, for an undisclosed sum. It said at the time that it saw the potential to grow Hickory’s into a national dining brand and the investment underpinned the company’s strategy of growing its reach through “compelling brands and unlocking value by making the most of each of its sites”.
 
Ayerst – we have to make sure we’ve got something that competes effectively in the QSR/fast-casual space: Nick Ayerst, chief executive of the Comptoir Group, has said the business has to make sure its Shawa brand is something that competes effectively in the qwuick service restaurant, fast casual marketplace. The company currently operates two sites under Shawa, in Bluewater and Westfield London. Talking on COREcruitment’s leadership series in partnership with Propel, Ayerst, who joined Comptoir last October, said: “I’m sort of pulling together my thoughts, but there's four great brands here. One of them, I guess, the eponymous one, is the one that most people know. But three of the other brands – Kenza, Yalla Yalla and Shawa – that we trade each have their own sort of slightly different unique marketplace. So, we’ll be looking at making sure each of those is strong in its own right, is clear about where it trades within the marketplace, and then we'll be looking at opportunities of how we grow each of those brands. One of them – Shawa – sits in the quick service restaurant, fast-casual space, which clearly over the last couple of years, and I think for years to come, will be the growing sector of this industry. And making sure we’ve got something that competes effectively in that marketplace would seem to be a sensible option. We’ve also got a franchise relationship with HMSHost in overseas airports and in the UK. So, we’ll be talking to it about what other opportunities are there, maybe elsewhere to grow.”
 
Subway eyes $10bn sale: Global sandwich chain Subway has retained advisers to explore a sale of the circa 37,000-strong business. According to the Wall Street Journal, the process, which is in the early stages, is expected to attract potential corporate buyers and private-equity firms, and could value Subway at more than $10bn (£8.2bn). “As a privately held company, we don’t comment on ownership structure and business plans,” Subway said. “We continue to be focused on moving the brand forward with our transformational journey to help our franchisees be successful and profitable.” Subway, known for its foot-long sandwiches and quick-service restaurants, has been owned by its two founding families for more than five decades. The brand’s circa 21,000 US locations generated $9.4bn in sales in 2021, up 13% from the year prior as the chain recovered from the pandemic and operational improvements boosted sales. The company had about 37,000 stores around the world as of 2021 and was the biggest restaurant chain by US locations. It currently has circa 2,300 sites in the UK.
 
South London McDonald’s franchisee turns first profit in five years as turnover passes pre-pandemic levels, driven by delivery sales: South London McDonald’s franchisee Manor Restaurants, owned by Terry Eagle, turned a first profit in five years in the year ending 31 December 2021 as turnover passed pre-pandemic levels. The Sydenham company, which former McDonald’s area manager Eagle started in 2007, reported pre-tax profit of £1,392,277. This compares with a loss of £318,114 in 2020 and is the first profit the company turned since 2017, when it made £25,176. Turnover for the period was £24,788,988, up 55.2% from £15,974,920 and exceeding the last pre-pandemic figure of £21,955,281 in 2019. The company received £209,800 under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2020: £1,468,318). In his report accompanying the accounts, Eagle said: “There are two factors behind the increase [in turnover]. Firstly, and primarily, a full year of trading across all restaurants following the partial closures in 2020 as a result of government measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. Secondly, the business has seen a rise in delivery sales. The return to fully open stores has not led to any reduction in delivery sales, which have actually continued to increase throughout 2021. Operating margins have improved from minus 1.77% in 2020 to 5.69% in 2021. The profit on the disposal of one of the franchises operated by the business of £479,236 has contributed to the increase in operating margin. Excluding this profit on sale, the operating margin was 3.75%. The business is in a much-improved position when compared with the previous year. Both short and long-term liabilities have reduced by an overall 42.4% and the shareholders’ funds show a surplus of £176,730 (2020 deficit £1,098,543).” Eagle started working for McDonald’s in Catford in 1976, progressing to restaurant manager and area manager before acquiring his first franchise restaurant in Camberwell at the age of 29.
 
East London brewer set to open neighbourhood pub, five more to follow by 2028: East London brewer Exale Brewing is set to open a new neighbourhood pub next month, with five more to follow by 2028. The company, which already operates a taproom in Walthamstow, will open the Three Colts at 199 Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green in February. It is the first stage of an expansion plan in which Exale hopes to open a new site every year for the next five years. The Three Colts will be run by Exale’s Andy Solley, who has previously operated and overseen East End pubs The Cat & Mutton and The Morgan Arms. It will feature outdoor seating, while inside there will be 14 lines of keg and cask beer, plus cocktails and natural wine. The kitchen will be operated by “one of London’s most exciting, up and coming food operators”, who will be announced shortly. Entertainment will include shuffleboard, DJs, quiz nights, tap takeovers and live music. Exale, founded by Mark Hislop, opened its Walthamstow taproom in October 2019, in partnership with Victory London Distillery.
 
Redemption Roasters opens in London’s Piccadilly for 11th site, releases social impact report: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, has opened a site in London’s Piccadilly for its 11th outlet. Occupying the former Caffé Nero premises at 35 Jermyn Street, the space seats 35 inside, with an upstairs mezzanine and there is also outside seating. The site serves the company’s range of ethically sourced speciality coffee including house espressos, plus rotating seasonal single origin varieties. Redemption has also released its 2022 social impact report as it aims to reduce reoffending through coffee. It shows 25% of revenue has been invested in the company’s impact activities, saving £2.5m in taxpayers’ money from being spent on the criminal justice system. The reoffending rate of its employees is 22%, far lower than the national average of 51%. Redemption has worked with 14 prisons to date – at Highdown HMP, more than 1,500 people have been supported through Redemption’s barista training programme. Its newest barista academy, at HMP Pentonville, opened in June 2022, and has so far trained 40 prisoners. A total of 22% of Redemption’s workforce consists of prison leavers and individuals at risk of entering crime. The company has increased the number of graduates by 37% over the course of 2022 while to date 85% of its interns have completed their three-month programme and progressed into employment with Redemption.
 
McDonald’s operator profits leap four-fold amid sharp rise in home deliveries: Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire McDonald’s operator Fun & Fries, owned by Jacqueline Moore since 2003, has reported an 88% increase in turnover – with a similar jump in profits – in the year ended 31 December 2021. Amid a sharp rise in demand for home deliveries, the company produced turnover of £19,825,607 compared with £10,534,473 in 2020 – and a significant increase on the last pre-pandemic revenue figure of £13,070,859 in December 2019. Profit before tax was £1,223,179, more than four times the 2020 figure of £291,307. Moore said: “The company has continued to invest in the business and the development and training of its employees, as well as continued investment in IT and store equipment. In addition, during the year the company acquired a further store on a business finance lease.”
 
Arc Inspirations reveals details of Manahatta site in Sheffield: Arc Inspirations, the Martin Wolstencroft-led business, which operates the Banyan and Box concepts, has confirmed it will open the first site in Sheffield under its Manahatta brand, on Saturday,11 February. The 18-strong company will open next to the City Hall in Fountains Precinct after a £2m restoration of a derelict two-storey unit. Sheffield will be the eighth site for the brand – current locations include Birmingham, Harrogate, Leeds, Manchester and York. Further openings under the brand are due in Newcastle and Nottingham. Inspired by New York loft bars, the Sheffield venue will comprise two floors and will include bookable booths, a 12-metre feature bar with a DJ podium, external seating and a first-floor balcony overlooking City Hall. The 500-capacity venue will create 70 jobs. Wolstencroft said: “We are delighted to continue growing our successful portfolio of brands and it is always such an exciting adventure introducing what we do to new cities and locations. Coming to Sheffield, we are confident the Manahatta brand will be a popular addition to the already existing nightlife and bar scene. Sheffield is a vibrant city, undergoing transformational investment, which we want to be a part of. Its large population, with more than 17 million visitors annually, makes this the right time to bring the brand to the city as we seek to continue expanding the business over the next three-to-five years.” 
 
Shake Shack to open in London’s Oxford Street this month for 12th UK site: Shake Shack will open its 12th UK site, in London’s Oxford Street this month. The outlet will launch on Friday, 27 January and will be the first Shake Shack with a vertically orientated kitchen. It will offer the brand’s classic menu, including the signature ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries and hand-spun shakes in addition to special menu items exclusive to the Oxford Street site. Shake Shack operates eight sites in London, one in Cardiff, one in Gatwick airport’s North Terminal and one in Lakeside, Essex. It also operates ten delivery kitchen sites and is also set to open a restaurant in London’s Soho, in the former French Connection premises in Argyll Street.
 
Scottish hotel operator nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, predicts increased profitability: Lanarkshire-based Lisini Pub Company has reported a sharp increase in trading income and profits for the year ended 31 March 2022 despite facing ongoing challenges related to the pandemic. The company, which operates Angels Hotel and The Castle Rooms in Uddington, Dalziel Park Hotel in Motherwell and The Parkville Hotel in Blantyre, as well as a golf club and other leasehold interests, had to close venues, reduce working hours and staffing, and face what it described as “a very sharp system reset in terms of consumer confidence”. Turnover for the year was £8,853,134, compared with £1,943,694 in the year to March 2021, with a profit before tax of £1,629,619 (2021: loss of £519,841). Dividends of £197,300 were paid (2021: £107,200), and the company was in receipt of government grants totalling £451,093 (2021: £2,174, 954). By way of comparison, the 2022 turnover was only very slightly down on pre-pandemic levels. The company's managing director  Lisa Lisini sadly passed way last Saturday (7 January), aged 57, following a long illness with her family at her side. She was a prominent figure in the Scottish hospitality industry, steering 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.
 
Halo Burger signs five-kitchen partnership with Sessions: Plant-based burger concept Halo Burger has signed a five-kitchen partnership with distribution platform Sessions, to enable delivery of its burgers across all of London. Halo Burger, which secured new investment from a consortium of backers last month, and Sessions will deliver from Richmond, Canary Wharf, Finsbury Park and Queen's Park, with Fulham to follow later this month. The two-mile radius will cover much of the capital, offering Halo Burger's full menu to a wider audience. Halo Burger said together with the continuous success of its eat-in delivery format at Pop Brixton, the launch will contribute to the ongoing growth of the concept. Ross Forder, founder of Halo Burger, said: “I created Halo Burger because when I first became vegan, I was disappointed at the lack of good plant-based burgers available. Now because of the partnership with Sessions, Halo can now be delivered to the majority of London – an ambition I always had. We look forward to seeing the results of our partnership with Sessions and believe this is just our first step.” Last month, Propel revealed that Halo was set for expansion after a corporate restructuring and securing new investment from a consortium of backers, including Sauce Kelaker, the new company created by hospitality advisory business Kelaker and PR agency Sauce Communications. In addition to currently opening between five to ten dark kitchen sites, Halo Burger intends to open three high street stores this year.
 
Kokoro opens in Nottingham: Sushi and bento brand Kokoro has opened a new restaurant in Nottingham city centre. It has taken a lease on a 2,102 square-foot site at 7-8 Exchange Walk. FHP secured the letting on behalf of landlord Evolve, which purchased the parade in 2022. The Nottingham site is a 64th in the UK for Kokoro, which was founded in 2010 by Ray-Kyu Park.
 
Rosa’s Thai confirms February opening for debut south west site: Rosa’s Thai, which is backed by TriSpan, has confirmed its first site in the south west of England will open next month. Propel revealed in November the Gavin Adair-led company had secured the former Absurd Bird site in Exeter’s Queen Street. The restaurant, Rosa’s Thai’s 32nd, will now open on Saturday, 4 February, offering 80 covers and opening from midday daily. Adair said: “Opening our first site in the south west is a great way to start the year. Exeter feels completely right for Rosa’s, and we can’t wait to get the woks on!”
 
Hand Picked Hotels narrows losses but turnover well below pre-pandemic levels: Hand Picked Hotels, a collection of 21 country house and spa hotels located throughout the UK and the Channel Islands, saw its losses narrow in the year ending 30 December 2021, but turnover remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Pre-tax losses of £19,126,778 were almost halved to £10,010,604 and were below those of pre-pandemic levels (2019: loss of £12,938,790). Turnover increased from £22,636,298 in 2020 to £38,229,235 but is still well below the last pre-pandemic of £57,650,045 in 2019. The group has net current liabilities, excluding short term loans, of £6.3m (2020: £7.3m) and net liabilities of £15.4m (2020: £5.1m). Shareholder debt was £118.7m at the period end (2020: £80.6m) and following external bank loan repayment of £30m in 2021, external gearing on the group hotel assets is 0% (2020: 26%). Following the period end, the shareholders have provided additional loan facilities of £7.8m to support the group’s working capital. Director Peter Herbert, in his report accompanying the accounts, said: “We are maintaining our investment in constantly upgrading our existing bedroom stock, leisure and conferencing facilities and food and beverage offerings. Since reopening after covid, we have seen buoyant demand in many of our sectors that the business serves, resulting in improved performance, reflecting the success of our focus on a high-quality product under the refined business model. All current indicators suggest that our customers’ appetite for our products is strong and that the group’s key target markets will continue to grow significantly in the future.”

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