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Wed 18th Jan 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hospitality celebrates best December in three years but real terms sales lag behind pre-covid: Britain’s leading managed pub, bar and restaurant groups enjoyed their best December trading in three years, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals, but sales remain well below pre-covid levels in real terms. The Tracker – produced by CGA by NielsenIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK – shows like-for-like December sales were 15.0% ahead of December 2021, when festive trading was hit by concerns about the Omicron variant. However, sales were only 2.0% ahead of December 2019, and after adjustments for double-digit inflation, they are significantly behind. It was a particularly strong Christmas for pubs, where like-for-like sales finished 19.0% ahead of December 2021 as consumers’ concerns about covid eased and the football World Cup drove fans into venues. Year-on-year growth was more modest in restaurants at 9.1%, while sales in the bars segment were up 11.9%. The Tracker highlights the ongoing recovery of London’s hospitality sector after covid. December sales within the M25 were 22.8% ahead of 2021, when Omicron curtailed parties and celebrations in pubs, bars and restaurants. This is sharper year-on-year growth than outside the M25, where sales were up 12.9% year-on-year. Karl Chessell, director hospitality operators and food EMEA at CGA by NielsenIQ, said: “After two bleak Decembers, solid Christmas trading helped many pub, bar and restaurant groups to end 2022 on a high. However, it is clear that sales remain well behind pre-covid levels in real terms, and fragile consumer confidence and rail strikes made for tough trading conditions. With the costs of energy, food and other key costs continuing to soar, operators’ sales and profit margins are under severe pressure as we move into 2023, and with venues weakened by nearly three years of disruption, targeted government support is urgently needed to protect businesses and jobs.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Train strikes affected trade on key trading days in December, but despite disruptions, trading was solid and many operators especially pubs and bars traded better than expected. Cost pressures remains challenging but there is some optimism amongst many operators.”

Industry News:

Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature more than 165,000 words of content, launching on Friday: Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature more than 165,000 words of content when it is launched on Friday (20 January). The database will have the full profiles of more than 650 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators. It is the fifth major database exclusive to Premium subscribers. 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, which will be updated monthly, 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 four other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; 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. 

Incipio Group to speak at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Anthony Knight, sales and marketing director at Incipio 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 next Tuesday and Wednesday (24 and 25 January) at One Moorgate Place in London. Knight will discuss the art of marketing multi-concept portfolios and how to get the best results. 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, Caprice Holdings, Coco di Mama, Oakman Group, Searcy’s, Press Up Hospitality Group, Vapiano, Popeyes UK, Inception Group, New World Trading Company, 200 Degrees, Chestnut Group, Peggy Porschen Cakes, Krispy Kreme, KellyDeli, Red Engine, East Coast Concepts, 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. 

Pitcher – government needs to investigate energy firms over service charges to sector, looking to expand Peach business in second half of 2023: Revolution Bars Group chief executive Rob Pitcher has told Propel the government needs to investigate energy firms over their service charges to hospitality businesses. Pitcher said while the cost of energy has come down since Christmas, the charges that firms imposed for the delivery of gas and electricity has doubled. Revolution has taken the decision to close “a few” sites on Mondays and Tuesdays to manage its energy usage. Pitcher said those decisions were being taken at a “local level” and added last week sales were still up versus 2020 despite the couple of closures and the business was still trading profitably. He added he did not expect the temporary closures to last beyond mid-February. “These are our quietest days of the week for that part of the business so the impact on revenue is minimal,” Pitcher said. “It’s also an opportunity to give those teams a couple of extra days’ rest ready to take advantage of the five days that make a difference. Energy prices have started to come down, which is great, and our costs are fixed until the end of March. But what I think the government needs to look at is the delivery charge by energy companies to hospitality businesses, which has doubled. If anyone else was to do that there would be an outcry.” Pitcher said the focus for the next six months would be completing the integration of Peach into the group before looking to expand that businesses, which is performing “very strongly”, in the second half of 2023. He added the group also expects to strengthen its pipeline of Revolution and Revolución de Cuba sites in the next few months and its latest openings – in Exeter and Preston – were trading better than anticipated. Pitcher said he was confident the drop in walk-in trade was mostly down to the train strikes and while he believes it will pick-up again once the dispute has been resolved, he said it was imperative this was done as soon as possible. Further train strikes are set to take place on 1 and 3 February. He added the business had not seen a downturn in customers consuming alcohol, saying people are “definitely out to have a good time while drinking responsibly” and said youngsters were still coming to its venues “in their droves”. 

Borg-Neal – we need to stop campaigning for short-term interventions and focus on long-term structural change: The sector needs to “stop campaigning for short-term interventions” and focus on long-term structural change around business rates and VAT, Peter Borg-Neal, executive chairman of Oakman Group, the award-winning pub-restaurant operator, has said. “It is clear we are going to get little help from the government in the current climate,” he said. “That may well turn out to be a good thing. In my opinion, we need to stop campaigning for short-term interventions to support our sector. The focus needs to be on long-term structural change. Our sector is ridiculously overtaxed compared with the rest of Europe. We should focus our efforts and campaign on two issues only – business rates and VAT. The first is an antiquated tax that delivers an unfair burden on our sector. The second is a nonsense. For there to be no VAT on processed meals but for VAT to be charged on food in our sites is an abject nonsense. Furthermore, I think it can be proven these taxes reduce income for the revenue by depressing growth in our sector.” Earlier this week, Propel revealed the 39-strong business had approached its current shareholder base to raise £5.3m to help with its next stage of growth. Borg-Neal said: “Our core Oakman Inns brand has now grown to 28 sites and the average sales per site for the year to date exceeds £42,000 net of VAT. We are extremely happy with the positioning of the business and have a pipeline of five new Oakman Inn sites we intend to develop in the next 18 months. The Seafood Pub collection now has 11 sites within its portfolio. The focus will now be on investing further in those sites and developing the concept before we look at any further acquisitions.”

UKHospitality – ONS stats reinforce sector’s challenging recruitment landscape: UKHospitality has warned the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) labour market data merely reinforces the sector’s challenging recruitment landscape. The stats showed average pay rose by 6.4% between September and November compared with the same period in 2021. It is the fastest growth since 2001, excluding during the height of covid, but when adjusted for rising prices, wages fell in real terms by 2.6%. This has led to demands for pay rises, but for some businesses, particularly smaller ones, raising wages in line with inflation while having to pay for higher energy bills poses difficulties. In addition, worker shortages in some sectors has meant companies having had to offer more attractive pay packets, with the number of vacancies remaining at historically high levels. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The figures reinforce the challenging recruitment landscape hospitality businesses are facing, with vacancy rates still 63% higher than pre-pandemic levels. This continues to restrict the ability of businesses to trade, with businesses restricting trading hours, reducing opening days and simplifying menus as a result of staffing shortages. Wages in the sector have been steadily rising for a long time, reflecting the efforts of businesses to both attract staff and keep up with inflation. Our latest quarterly survey showed staff pay was up 12%, joining energy, food and drink as the most significantly rising business costs. There is not a silver bullet to solve this recruitment crisis, but we do need to see ambition from the government, ranging from investment in skills, apprenticeships and education to immigration solutions where necessary. If the sector is able to access the people it needs to fill essential roles, businesses will be able to trade more freely and return to their potential to deliver economic growth and create even more job opportunities.”

Former Swingers partner – experiential will keep growing and evolving as technology advances, people now expect activity-led entertainment as part of socialising: Former Swingers partner Josh Ford believes experiential concepts will keep growing and evolving as technology advances, and people now expect activity-led entertainment as part of socialising. Ford will launch new TV gameshow experience Gameshow Studios in London in the spring. Speaking about the growth of immersive entertainment, and what he sees the future holding for it, Ford said: “Whereas a decade ago it was new to people, the behaviour pattern of planning nights out has completely changed. Customers are now way more inclined to be booking activity-led entertainment, and now assume they’re going to find some as part of their socialising. We’ve been through a period of time where customers have had the opportunity to try lots of new concepts, and this has led to consumers becoming much more discerning. This has also created a new expectation of quality. Whether that’s production build, the performances or the quality of food and beverage – operators are now expected to deliver.” Ford also sees more spaces becoming available for such concepts over the next 12 months. “Two years ago, there were loads of sites, it was almost like landlords were panicking, but there’s been such a flood of activity-based entertainment come to market in the past year that there’s a bit more competition when we’re looking for a space now,” he said. “In another year or so, I think there will be another wave of available spaces. Since lockdown, there’s been a rush of new concepts coming to the market, but that is likely to settle down now as not all of those concepts will necessarily work.” As well as being a former partner in Swingers, Ford also co-founded experiences such as Time Run and Sherlock: The Game is Now, but never stays with one concept for too long. He added. “I’ve always loved the process of taking an idea and bringing it to life, and once it’s operating and running smoothly, it’s time for me to move on to the next thing.” Ford told Propel in November he was planning a multiple venue roll-out of Gameshow Studios.

Inaugural Hospitality Kicks aiming to raise £50,000 for three sector charities: The inaugural Hospitality Kicks football tournament for hospitality brands will take place in Manchester on Tuesday, 27 June, with the goal of raising £50,000 for three industry charities. The final amount raised will be distributed evenly between Only A Pavement Away, The Tim Bacon Foundation and the Licensed Trade Charity. Founded by Wireless Social, it will see 40 teams from the sector compete in a seven-a-side tournament. Places are open for operators (£300) and suppliers (£800), and a breadth of sponsorship opportunities are also available. Kicking off at 9am at Wythenshawe Sports Ground, matches will be played until 3pm, followed by entertainment and drinks until 6.30pm. Julian Ross, chief executive at Wireless Social, said: “I truly believe there is no industry better than hospitality at coming together to support people and great causes. Team registrations, donations and sponsorships have already started pouring in, so I encourage you to move fast if you want to be involved.” To take part or to find out more about sponsorship opportunities, email info@hospitalitykicks.com.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business in the services industry that is seeking a marketing director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This role will develop and implement the overall marketing and communications strategy, with assistance from the wider department and agencies. The position will focus on strategic input on the wider company strategy, with an opportunity to implement some exciting growth changes. You will be creative, innovative, and agile in your approach; ensuring the proposition is always seen as exciting and relevant to customers. The role will include developing and implementing the marketing strategy for new global locations, developing strategies to boost sales and profits, owning and developing customer experience metrics, ensuring the business has a strong and positive brand image and, finally, driving its corporate social responsibility agenda.” The salary is up to £100,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email gemma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News: 

Black Sheep Coffee forecasts reaching 130-plus sites, like-for-like sales up 43%: Speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has set out a base forecast of having 131 stores by the end of 2023, and seen like-for-like sales climb 43% on last year, Propel has learned. The 70-strong company, which opened its latest site earlier this week at Heathrow airport, saw total revenue in the fourth quarter grow by 11% on the third quarter. Like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter of 2022 were 25% up versus the same period in 2021 and 43% up for FY22 versus FY21. The company said operating contribution increased 26% on the third quarter of 2022, heavily driven by growth in franchising contribution – £341,000 of franchising revenue was recognised in the fourth quarter compared with £86,000 in the third quarter. However, it said average weekly sales in December were down 23% on October and November due to “seasonality and the impact of train strikes on trade”. Co-founder Gabriel Shohet said the company’s base forecast is to have 131 shops by year end, “but I’m hoping we can do a bit more” and “we should at the very least double sales in 2023 versus 2022”. The company plans to make its US debut this quarter, with a site at 6240 E Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, although Shohet said an April opening might be “more realistic”. Locations in the pipeline include Edinburgh, Reading, Newcastle, Cardiff and Waterloo station. In the year to 2 January 2022, turnover stood at £10,709,936 (2020: £5,346,428), with a pre-tax loss of £2,835,195 versus a loss of £7,216,867 the previous year. At the year end, the group had net assets of £4.9m (2020: £1.9m). During the year the group opened 14 sites in the UK ending the year with 49 operating sites – 36 in London, six in regional England, three in Scotland, one UK franchise and three international franchise sites – two in Manila and one in Paris. Subsequent to the year end, the company raised additional financing through an equity issue. Prior to the approval of the financial statements on 21 December 2022, the group opened 11 corporate stores across England and Scotland, and five franchise stores in England.

Yum! Brands appoints Ian Cranna as new general manager for Taco Bell UK & Europe: Yum! Brands has appointed Ian Cranna as the new general manager for its Taco Bell brand in the UK and Europe, Propel has learned. Cranna brings more than 25 years’ experience of working for major retail and food and beverage brands to Taco Bell, which operates circa 120 sites in the UK. He spent more than two and a half years as chief marketing officer at Compass Group UK & Ireland. Prior to that he spent more than 15 years at Starbucks EMEA, including stints as its vice-president Reserve and roastery, and vice-president marketing and category. He replaces Gino Casciani, who after almost three years as general manager for Taco Bell UK & Europe, has been promoted to vice-president international operations for the brand. Meanwhile, Charles Saksik has been appointed development and finance director at Taco Bell Europe. He joins the business after three years at sister brand KFC, including a recent stint as strategy director for KFC UK & Ireland.

KFC and Starbucks franchisee makes loss following high staff turnover and supply chain issues, restructure to provide funding for expansion plans: Soul Foods Group, a multinational quick-service restaurant franchisee with almost 400 sites across the UK and Canada and among the top three largest KFC and Starbucks franchisees, made a loss in the year ending 26 June 2022 following high staff turnover and supply chain issues. However, the company said a restructure following a “significant minority investment” last year will provide additional funding for its expansion. The company saw turnover drop slightly from £109,158,226 in 2021 to £108,231,815. It also saw a £10,623,919 pre-tax profit in 2021 become a £42,637 pre-tax loss. Director Aly Janmohamed, in his statement accompanying the accounts, blamed this on several factors, including “an absence of staff and minor closure of stores, as well as the shortage of manpower generally in the hospitality industry”. He said: “This has meant a higher turnover of staff than normal, the consequence being that expenditure on training costs through wages has increased significantly. There have also been supply issues in relation to the pricing of goods, but at the same time there was no corresponding increase in the sales price to customers during the period. Online sales (delivery) continued to form a significant part of our income, but the margins achieved on this trade is lower than other sales. Despite the current adverse economic conditions including inflationary pressures, it is still anticipated the group will continue to achieve positive Ebitda in 2023 and future years.” In September last year, Propel reported the investment in Soul Food Group from a consortium of leading institutional investors would be used to double its portfolio over the next five years. Janmohamed added in his statement: “In July 2022, there was restructuring of the group that has enabled other parties to become shareholders, who will be able to provide additional funding to expand not only organically, but by expansion through acquisition of other businesses in the fast-food industry.” The company received £987,667 in government grants (2021: £2,993,997). Other non-financial key performance indicators included average guest experience survey scores across all stores of 73% (2021: 70%); 87% of stores having a food hygiene rating of five out of five (2021: 87%); and 80% achieving the highest food hygiene ratings and restaurant operations compliance checks score (2021: 70%).

Tortilla lines up first site in Northern Ireland: Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, has lined up a debut site in Northern Ireland. The 82-strong business is to redevelop a site in Belfast’s Arthur Square for an opening later this year. It has secured a ground floor unit previously used by Google and shoe retailer Hotter, which has been vacant since October 2020. Last week, Tortilla chief executive Richard Morris told Propel: “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.” New sites set to open in FY23 include Derby and Greenwich (London) in the spring, with a “healthy pipeline” of further openings planned for later in the year. 

Bristol restaurant group Aqua to launch new concept: Aqua, the Bristol-based, family-owned restaurant group, is to launch a new concept on its existing site in Clifton. Aqua Grand Café will launch in the city’s Whiteladies Road on Monday, 6 February. Ben Smithson, who operates the business with his father Richard, said the group was promising something "new, exciting and very special" in Bristol, and bringing back some classic dishes to the menu. He said: “It's going to be an exquisite restaurant, a real experience – something I'm very excited and passionate to show you all.” 

Morgan Pub Collective adds St Albans pub to estate: Morgan Pub Collective, the multi-site operator led by Richard Morgan, has added a St Albans site to its now 11-strong estate. The group, which operates pubs across London and the south east, has taken on the lease of The Verulam Arms, in Lower Dagnall Street, with a rent of £40,000 per annum. The group also operates sites including The Argyll in Henley, The Coach & Horses in Rickmansworth, The Corner House in Windsor, The Sussex Arms in Twickenham, and The Lyric in Soho. Morgan’s son, James, is the co-founder of Big Smoke Brew Company. Paul Tallantyre, of DCL, acted on the St Albans deal for the private landlord. 

Los Mochis owners to offer all staff medical insurance: The owners of Baja-Nihon restaurant Los Mochis, which has two branches in London, and cocktail bar Viajante87 will offer all employees medical insurance through BUPA. The move comes at a time when the hospitality sector is struggling to attract and retain staff. The insurance will apply to every level of employment following the passing of probation. The group has already experimented with creative styles of service and adapted opening hours and staffing schedules to be as optimised as possible. Co-founder Markus Thesleff said: “We are proud to be one of the first restaurant groups in the country to offer full medical insurance to our employees. We always try to create the best possible working environment to attract and retain our staff and believe this is just one of the necessary advances in the hospitality industry. We believe it benefits employees massively knowing their health and welfare is taken care of, while also helping to alleviate pressure on the NHS.” The original Los Mochis opened in Notting Hill in 2020, followed by a second site, in Liverpool Street, in October last year. Viajante87, an “innovative and experiential” cocktail bar also based in Notting Hill, opened last week.

Administration threat for another Signature Living business: HM Revenue & Customs has applied to the High Court to force another Signature Living business, Signature Living Apartments, into administration. The application marks another business going to the wall in the complex collapse of the hotel and hospitality business operated by Lawrence Kenwright, reports Insider Media. Administrators were appointed in April 2020 to run the businesses after debts piled up in the operator, which operated premises including The Shankly Hotel, the Dixie Dean Hotel and Rainhill Hall. Most recent estimates put the total debts of the various Signature ventures at £56m. However, the last accounts filed for Signature Living Apartments were micro-company accounts for the financial years ending June 2019 and 2020, filed on the same day in May 2021. An attempt was made to dissolve the business and strike it off in September 2022, but an objection to this was filed in the High Court in October 2022. The directors of the business are Lawrence Kenwright and Katie Kenwright, and the entity with significant control is listed as Signature Living Hotels, at the address of administrators Duff and Phelps.

East Anglia McDonald’s franchisee sees profits and turnover soar following opening of three new stores: East Anglia McDonald’s franchisee K Foley saw its profits and turnover soar in the year ending 31 December 2021 following the opening of three new stores. The company, which now operates ten stores, said it saw a “period of significant growth” in 2021, with another of its stores also undergoing a major refurbishment. The new stores, along with the relaxation of covid restrictions, saw the company increase turnover from £22,278,193 in 2020 to £35,538,269. This also exceeded pre-pandemic levels of revenue, with £25,011,052 being reported in 2019. Pre-tax profits increased almost three-fold, from £422,079 to £1,277,178 (2019: £510,197). The company received £116,731 in Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments compared with £1,417,410 in 2020. Owner Kevin Foley, who employs more than 1,000 people, has been a McDonald’s franchisee since 1999 and set up and opened six of his sites from new build. His father was the very first McDonald’s employee to be offered a franchise in the UK, and he was the first second-generation franchisee holder in this country. Earlier this year, he took a convoy of 21 vans full of supplies on a 3,700-mile round trip to the Ukraine borders to help refugees affected by the Russian invasion. He is also passionate about promotion from within, telling the Eastern Daily Press: “Everyone in my management has come up through part-time or full-time crew jobs. A lot of people come to work at McDonald’s and they’re not thinking of a career here, they want a part-time job, but they discover what they can do. All three of my supervisors started off with me at 16-17 and are now running groups of restaurants.”

St Austell expands wholesale portfolio to South Wales: St Austell Brewery has expanded its wholesale portfolio into South Wales. Fronting the company’s growth into this new trading area is Nick Jackson, newly appointed sales development manager for the region. Jackson was previously responsible for the South Wales and south west trading areas for Matthew Clark, as business development manager, for the past five years. Dan Crabb, sales director at St Austell Brewery, said: “The expansion of our free trade business into South Wales marks the latest exciting chapter of St Austell Brewery’s growth. We are excited to forge new partnerships and bring our award-winning beers and third-party brands to new customers. Considering the current challenges of our trading environment, we’re proud to celebrate this latest milestone as we continue to expand our footprint across the UK.”

Wye Valley Brewery reports record profits and turnover in ‘best ever trading period’: Herefordshire brewer and retailer Wye Valley Brewery has reported record profits and turnover for the year ending 30 April 2022 in what the company has described as its “best ever trading period”. Pre-tax profits rose from £611,412 in 2021 to £2,460,519 and were significantly up on pre-pandemic levels, with £1,428,664 reported in the year ending 30 April 2019. Turnover increased from £7,443,535 in 2021 to £14,367,018 and was also up on the last pre-pandemic figure of £12,290,468 in 2019. It received £26,447 in government grants compared with £449,168 in 2021. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Vernon Amor said: “Despite some covid lockdown restrictions affecting the earlier part of this year, Wye Valley Brewery bounced back and experienced the best ever trading period in our company’s history. Beer sales across all routes to market reached record levels. In particular we saw strong sales growth of our lager brand, 1985. Turnover increased from £7.4m to £14.4m, a new record; pre-tax profit increased from £0.6m to £2.5m, also a new record. We were proud to become a National Living Wage employer this year. Capital investment in energy efficient equipment continued, including a novel refrigeration system, multiple fully electric and hybrid staff vehicles together with charging points. Further solar PV installations and energy storage devices are planned for next year. We remain optimistic for the future as sales continue to grow organically, with further investments to increase capacity and new product development.”

Iconic Paris restaurant Caviar Kaspia finally returns to London as private members’ club: Iconic Paris restaurant Caviar Kaspia has made its long-awaited return to London – this time as a private members’ club. Caviar Kaspia originally operated from a site in Bruton Place, Westminster, before it closed to be replaced by brasserie, delicatessen and oyster bar Bellamy’s. It returned briefly as a pop-up at members’ club Loulou’s in 2017, and reports surfaced in 2018 that it would take over the site at 1a Chesterfield Street, in Mayfair, that previously housed The Chess Club. Five years on, it has now finally opened, with membership by personal invitation only. And while no membership fee is charged, members are requested to add £2,000 to their account each year, which goes towards the costs of drinks and meals, reports Hot Dinners. Caviar Kaspia was founded in 1927 by Arcady Fixon.

Gladwin brothers open farm shop at south west London lounge bar and dining venue: The Gladwin brothers, Richard and Oliver, have opened a farm shop at their lounge bar and dining venue The Fat Badger, in Richmond, south west London. The Fat Badger Restaurant Farm Shop “brings the countryside to local’s doorsteps, offering customers a changing seasonal selection of premium British produce predominantly sourced sustainably from small UK growers”. It offers “ready to roast” premium readymade meals prepared by chefs as well as specialist fish and meat counters, providing customers with an array of rare cuts of meat, game, fish and shellfish. There is also monthly masterclasses and workshops, including butchery, led by Oliver Gladwin and trusted farmers, “to provide a holistic overview of their farm to fork ethos”. The brothers also operate Sussex in Soho, The Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit in Chelsea, Nutbourne in Battersea, the Nutbourne Vineyard in West Sussex and The Black Lamb in Wimbledon.

Hidden Talents Group sees profits exceed pre-pandemic levels: Byfords of Holt operator Hidden Talents Group, which is Norfolk-based and led by Iain Wilson, saw its profits exceed pre-pandemic levels in the year ending 31 March 2022. Turnover at the company, which also undertakes property development, rose from £3,121,697 in 2021 to £9,724,673. This was also an increase on the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 March 2020, when turnover was £7,223,498. The vast majority came through food and beverage (£4,068,030), followed by rooms (£2,971,063) and rent and property sales (£2,112,514). Pre-tax profits also rose significantly from £1,163,489 in 2021 to £2,135,889 (2020: £1,041,128). The company received £221,610 in government grants, compared to £1,346,828 in 2021, plus £6,851 in insurance payouts. It also saw its customer feedback ‘thumbs up’ rating, which the group monitors closely, increase from 97.7% to 98.1%.

Hyatt opens riverside London hotel for eighth site in capital: Hotel company Hyatt has opened a riverside property in London for its eighth site in the capital. The 142-bedroom Hyatt Regency London Albert Embankment is part of the company’s “ambitious and strategic” brand growth plans for 2023 and beyond in the UK. The hotel also features the Potus bar and restaurant, offering a “diverse and distinctive menu of North American classics alongside traditional British favourites”. Meanwhile rooftop restaurant, cocktail bar and shisha terrace Mezemiso serves “authentic” Lebanese and Japanese cuisine. Felicity Black-Roberts, vice-president development of Hyatt Europe, said: “London remains a priority market for our planned brand growth in the UK. This is the third Hyatt Regency branded hotel in the city, further demonstrating how Hyatt is intentionally growing our brand portfolio in the UK, bringing our most renowned brands to the in-demand markets where our guests and World of Hyatt members want to be.”

Leeds doughnut shop operator confirms February opening for first franchise site, four more to follow in 2023: Leeds doughnut shop operator Tom Stafford has confirmed a February opening for the first franchise site for his Doh’Hut concept, with four more to follow in 2023. Stafford, who opened Doh’hut in Trevelyan Square in January 2020, will open his debut London site, in Exmouth Market, on 15 February. This will be quickly followed by a marquee site in Covent Garden a few weeks after, in early March. Stafford then plans a further three sites in the capital in 2023, as he expands the concept he launched after being inspired by the street food and food truck culture of the US west coast when travelling. Propel reported last November that Stafford is also preparing to launch a new gourmet sandwich shop, Things In Bread, in Leeds this year.

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