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Fri 20th Jan 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Energy crisis and rising costs drive hospitality closures above covid-hit 2021 levels: Unprecedented inflation in energy bills and other costs led to a net decline of 1,611 licensed premises in the fourth quarter of 2022, the latest Hospitality Market Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners reveals. It represents a 1.6% contraction of the market in just three months – equivalent to nearly 18 net closures every day. The research said if the current rate of closures continued, “we would see Britain’s number of licensed premises fall below 100,000 sometime this year”. Across the whole of 2022, the monitor reveals hospitality recorded a drop of 4,809 premises, or 4.5% of the total at the end of 2021, with more than three quarters of the closures occurring in the second half of the year. This means hospitality suffered a higher tally of closures in 2022 than 2021, and only marginally fewer than 2020, when covid restrictions severely curtailed trading. The sector now has 13,037 fewer sites than at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, a contraction of more than 10% in under three years. Nearly nine in ten fourth-quarter closures occurred in the independent sector. The casual dining and restaurant sectors recorded net declines of 2% and 2.4% of sites, but nightclubs had an even sharper drop of 6%. This segment is now nearly a third smaller than it was before the pandemic. Community, food and high-street pubs all had a net decline of less than 1%, and losses were modest in the bar and large venue segments too. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Given all the pressures, a drop of more than 1,600 venues in three months is quite shocking. Although consumers remain eager to visit pubs, bars and restaurants, thousands of vulnerable businesses remain at risk after three years of turmoil from covid and inflation.” Graeme Smith, managing director, AlixPartners, added: “These latest figures are a stark snapshot of what the sector has faced over the course of the past three years. Since March 2020, 13,037 site closures – equivalent to 13 sites lost every day. What is clear is, absent of further government support, the energy crisis has the potential to take a bigger toll on hospitality than covid.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Behind every one of these closures are dedicated people who have become victims of circumstances out of their control and are now being forced to exit the industry, shedding jobs in the process. Until business costs get under control, we will continue to see this level of closures. A focus on reducing the cost of doing business needs to be a priority focus for government.” Steve Alton, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping, added: “Our nation's pubs have had to face significant challenges in recent years, with the pandemic leaving our members with average covid debts of £40,000 per pub. The crisis they face now, with rising energy bills of up to 500% or more, has affected every operator in our industry. Sadly, we will see more closures if we do not do something to protect them and the vital service they provide.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Salmon Assessors says sector businesses who received insurance settlement because of pandemic losses entitled to more money: Leading loss assessors firm, Salmon Assessors, has said hospitality firms who received a settlement from insurers because of pandemic losses are entitled to more money. The firm is starting a nationwide advertising campaign aimed at the 370,000 firms – including thousands of hospitality businesses – whose business interruption claims in relation to covid lockdowns were initially refused by their insurers but upheld by the Supreme Court decisions. The campaign is branded BIClaimBack.com. Chief executive Jeff Salmon said: “We now believe every business that made a successful business interruption claim after the Supreme Court judgement, is due a further significant payment – over and above any settlements that insurers have already made. The additional payment is due even though insurers have already settled most claims. BIClaimBack centres around our belief that every policyholder who was subjected to an inordinate wait for their claims to be met, through what was determined by both courts to have been an incorrect decision by those insurers not to have settled promptly, should receive appropriate compensation for their decision.” Salmon stressed the additional payment only relates to successful claimants – it does not apply to those insurers that did not have to settle claims because of the wording of their policies. Salmon Assessors is working on a “no further settlement – no fee” structure and represented 720 businesses between 2020 and 2022, negotiating business interruption claims. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to launch on Monday, to feature more than 165,000 words of content: Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will launch on Monday (23 January) – the first time full profiles of more than 650 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators will be available in one place. It is the fifth major database exclusive to Premium subscribers and will feature more than 165,000 words of content. 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. 

London’s night tsar calls for urgent government support for industry as hospitality sector sees 27% fall in those working after 6pm: London’s night tsar, Amy Lamé, has called for urgent support to help the capital’s night-time economy as she brought together leaders and decision makers from across the city to help plan for the future of the capital’s life at night. Speaking at the London At Night Conference, she urged the government to support these “vital” businesses with cuts in VAT for hospitality companies; extend the 50% business rate relief for retail, culture, leisure, and hospitality sectors for a further year; and greater support for small and medium-sized enterprises with energy costs to enable them to help drive London’s economic recovery. It comes following new research showed the number of Londoners working evenings and nights had fallen to 1.4 million before the cost of living and energy bills crisis hit. The hospitality sector, where more than half of workers typically work evenings and nights, has seen a 27% fall in those working during these hours in the last five years. Lame said: “The prosperity of London’s night-time businesses and industries has never been more crucial than right now. Our 6pm to 6am businesses face a monumental challenge and urgent government support is essential to ensuring these businesses can play the necessary key roles in driving forward London’s economic and social recovery. I am so proud to host the first London at Night Conference and to bring together leaders from the across the capital as we put life at night is at the heart of our all plans to build a fair, inclusive and sustainable 24-hour city.” 

Third-party hotel operators set to grow across Europe, says HVS: The number of hotel owners using third-party operators to run their properties looks set to increase across Europe, reflecting the desire for flexibility as well as a number of other benefits, according to a new report from global hotel consultancy HVS. The trend for third-party operators has emerged from the US where the concept has become commonplace, with most franchised hotels from midscale upwards now being run in that way. In Europe, the use of third-party operators is more common among small and mid-sized hotels, particularly limited service or extended stay properties. As the concept has matured, however, more experienced third-party operators are being sought for large corporate and luxury hotels, some in addition to operating under licensing agreement with a hotel brand. In a sample of major European hotel operators compiled for the report by HVS, the number of hotels in the sample operated by third-party operators has grown by around 40%. This percentage is expected to grow a further 5% by 2025. The report outlines the often more favourable terms obtainable from third-party operators including shorter contracts than usual brand management arrangements, sometimes just 12 months compared with 20-30 years. Termination rights can also be more owner-friendly and less expensive, improving the liquidity of the asset and with a more direct involvement in operations third-party operators can usually boost performance and be more accurate with financial projections.

Company News: 

Greene King realigns divisional structure, moves from five to four divisions: Brewer and retailer Greene King has undertaken a realignment of its group divisional structure, moving from five divisions to four, after “extensive work on its branded portfolio”, Propel has learned. It is understood the changes are in-line with the group’s strategy to “grow sales through compelling brands and unlock value from its existing assets”. It is thought they will also enable the Nick Mackenzie-led group to better build a balanced portfolio across market segments including value, mainstream and premium, as well as continuing to build its ventures and franchise business while operating through a simplified structure. As part of the changes, the Greene King brand will now represent the group’s mainstream pub chain and will have a “clear and significant customer-facing role, building on its rich heritage and further unlocking the potential of the brand”. As of Monday, 30 January, the business will make the move from five divisions to four, each of which will encompass the following of the group’s segments: Greene King pubs (which is headed up by Clair Preston-Beer) – comprising Urban core, Heritage, Chameleon, Flaming Grill, and the existing Locals pubs estate; Partnerships & Ventures (Wayne Shurvinton) – comprising Venture Brands (Metropolitan Pub Company, Hotels, Hickory’s), Pub Partners, including its franchise sites and Crafted Pubs; Destination Brands (Andy Wilson) – comprising Hungry Horse, Farmhouse Inns, Chef & Brewer, Pubs with Rooms, and Pub & Carvery, Pub & Dining and Pub & Grill; and Brewing & Brands (Matt Starbuck). It is thought the circa 2,600-strong company will also add a new “Operational Excellence” function that will play a “critical role in ensuring the structure operates effectively to support its pubs and drive consistency in execution”. A Greene King spokesperson told Propel: “As a customer first business, strengthening the Greene King brand as a pub chain alongside the strategic realignment of our structure is a natural next step for Greene King as we continue to grow our business and improve our customer and team experience.” Meanwhile, Greene King Pub Partners, the company’s leased, tenanted and franchise division, ranked first out of the six biggest pub companies in KAM’s latest Licensee Index. It ranked first in 35 of the 54 measures (65%) covered in the index. This includes key measures such as training, business development manager knowledge, property and licensing support, market and consumer insight, and product range.

Sarah Clark to step down as Wellfound MD, Sarah Weir to oversee business: Sarah Clark is to step down as managing director of Wellfound, the Imbiba-backed restaurant and bar company formerly known as Wright & Bell, with the business set to come under the remit of Sarah Weir, managing director of Albion & East, Propel has learned. Clark, who was formerly at Mitchells & Butlers and Pret A Manger, joined Wellfound five years ago. The business currently operates two sites under its Marsha concept in Gabriel’s Wharf, near Waterloo, and Carnaby Street, and the bar and restaurant Green Room on the South Bank. It is gearing up to open a new Lino site in Lonsdale Road, Queen’s Park. The Imbiba-backed Albion & East will now oversee the day-to-day management of Wellfound and future growth of the business. Clark told Propel: “It has been a pleasure to lead the company with the support of Imbiba, our shareholders and my team for the last five years, and I am delighted to be handing the business over to the very capable hands of Sarah Weir and her team at Albion & East over the coming weeks. Special thanks to my team and Imbiba for the unwavering support and encouragement they have shown me over the years.” Weir said: “We are excited to have the opportunity to lead the Wellfound business, continuing its growth in the sector and the London market. Combining the knowledge and expertise of the two businesses, Albion & East and Wellfound, will only enhance both and create more opportunities in the coming year. We are proud to take forward the Wellfound business which Sarah and her team have built.” This spring. Albion & East will open a new flagship venue in Clapham. As previously revealed by Propel, it has secured the ground floor unit of the WRE Arding & Hobbs development, housed in the former Debenhams building at 315 Lavender Hill. The venue will have its own urban distillery and tasting room, distilling the first vodka for the bar group, alongside its usual offering of coffee and hot-desking by day and cocktail masterclasses and DJs by night, as well as coal-fired pizza and in-house baking. It will join Canova Hall and Cattivo in Brixton, Serata Hall in Old Street, Martello Hall in Hackney and Teatro Hall in Ealing, in the Albion & East estate.

Ian Horrox returns to D&D London as chief operating officer: Restaurant operator D&D London, which owns and operates circa 40 restaurants across the UK and internationally, has appointed Ian Horrox, who was previously the company’s HR director, as its new chief operating officer, Propel has learned. Horrox previously spent more than ten and a half years as HR director at D&D before leaving in 2017 to set up Horrox Resourcing Solutions. He was also people director at Conran for seven years and had a stint as head of HR (UK) for hotel chain Hilton Worldwide. Earlier this year, D&D London said it will cease trading four of its UK-based sites this month. The company said East 59th (Leeds), Klosterhaus (Bristol), Avenue and Radici (London) will cease trading, with Klosterhaus already closed. Kosterhaus, East 59th and Avenue were included in the seven sites Propel revealed that D&D London had placed on the market last November. The other sites being offered for sale included 100 Wardour Street, Cantina and the Blueprint Café, which are both based in Butlers Wharf, and Issho in the Victoria Gate scheme in Leeds. In September, the LDC-backed business appointed its co-founder, chief operating officer and deputy chairman David Loewi, as interim chief executive, after Des Gunewardena left the company to pursue other ventures.

Yum! Brands says less than 300 UK restaurants impacted by cyber-attack: Yum! Brands, the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut owner, has disclosed it was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this week, but there is no evidence that customer databases were stolen. The company said it took certain systems offline, and is currently looking to fully restore affected systems, which is expected to be largely completed “in the coming days.” The restaurant chain operator said less than 300 restaurants in the UK were closed for one day following the attack. The company said: “While this incident caused temporary disruption, the company is aware of no other restaurant disruptions and does not expect this event to have a material adverse impact on its business, operations or financial results.”

The Alchemist appoints commercial director to oversee Germany expansion: Bar and restaurant concept The Alchemist has appointed David Da as its new commercial director to oversee its expansion into Germany. Day’s most recent role was as food and beverage project manager at HR Group, the central Europe multi-brand hotel operator. Originally from the US, his father from the States and mother from Berlin, Da moved to Germany in 1987 to pursue his profession in the hospitality industry in Europe. The Alchemist said Day has had an esteemed career as a food and beverage director in the hotel industry including 25 years at Marriott International covering 12 countries across all continents. The Alchemist will open its first German venture in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, as part of the redevelopment project of The Playce. The 5,887 square-foot space will feature 212 covers internally and a further 50 external covers. The company has commenced the fit out of the venue, which is set to open in April this year. Day will be responsible for the implementation and running of The Alchemist’s expansion into Berlin by assisting with the finances, preparing the supply chain of supplier contracts, cleaning contracts, health and safety as well as managing the recruitment advertising and execution, translating safety standards and spearheading the operations such as the relocation of key team members. The Alchemist chief executive Simon Potts said: “After a great festive trading period, it’s been great to kick off 2023 with our first international location and we’re pleased to have David on the team, as we take a big step forward for The Alchemist. From the outset of the Germany project, we’ve been mindful of blending our established brand identity and culture, with local lived knowledge, in order to give ourselves the best chance of success in the new venture. We’re putting infrastructure in place to build on the Berlin site swiftly, as we believe the German market will provide us with a great opportunity to continue to grow the business outside of the UK.” 

New World Trading Company appoints Karl Jolly as new people director: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has appointed Karl Jolly as its new people director, Propel has learned. Jolly joins the 35-strong NWTC after a brief stint as people director at catering equipment supplier Nisbets. He previously spent more than three years as chief people officer at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, the Japanese restaurant brand. Jolly, who has also had stints at Mitchells & Butlers and Pret A Manger, spent almost 13 years as director of people at motorway services operator Welcome Break. He joins former Welcome Break chief executive and current Sticks ‘n’ Sushi non-executive director Rod McKie at NWTC. McKie was named the new executive chairman of NWTC last November. McKie, who is also currently chairman of cafe and deli concept Megan’s, spent nearly 16 years as chief executive of roadside services operator Welcome Break. Last October, NWTC said it expects to continue opening new venues at a rate of between five and eight per year, with sites in Edinburgh, Durham, Sunderland, Barnsley and a second site in Chester – which will feature new concept North Light – already in progress for 2023. It has also applied to open a site under its The Botanist brand inside Bobby’s shopping centre in Commercial Road, Bournemouth.

Adventure Leisure to open 15th site under Mr Mulligans crazy golf, plans to double brand portfolio: Adventure Leisure, a subsidiary of Burhill Group, will open the 15th site under its Mr Mulligans crazy golf brand next month and is looking to double its brand portfolio. Adventure Leisure, which also operates Ninja Warrior sites and Bunkers crazy golf, will launch the next Mr Mulligans at Riverside Leisure Park in Norwich on Saturday, 18 February. Totalling more than 14,000 square feet, the venue will feature an 18-hole crazy golf course as well as other games including electro-darts, shuffleboard, pool, ping pong, and beer pong. Adventure Leisure is investing more than £1m in the site. Propel understands Adventure Leisure is looking to open three more venues in 2023 across its brands. Andrew Scholey, business development and operations director at Adventure Leisure and Ninja Leisure, said: “We have no plans to sit still. With a steady pipeline of sites, we continue to adopt an aggressive growth strategy striving to move from our current 12 sites to 25 within the coming years.”

Palatial Leisure returns to profit but turnover well down on pre-pandemic levels, looking to expand online presence: Palatial Leisure, the operator of bingo halls, cinemas and a casino, returned to profit in the six months ending 31 December 2021, but turnover remains well down on pre-pandemic levels. It reported a pre-tax profit of £42,025 compared with a loss of £269,349 in the year ending 30 June 2021. This compares with a profit of £4,809,115 in the year ending 30 June 2020, which was partially hit by covid, and £807,551 in the last reported year before the pandemic (ending 31 December 2018). Turnover was £2,589,533 compared with £2,620,735 in the 12 months to 30 June 2021. This compares with £8,817,123 in the year ending 30 June 2020, and £11,469,983 in the last reported year before the pandemic. The company received £11,770 in government grants in the period compared with £503,061 in the year ending 30 June 2021. In March 2019, it surrendered the lease to its flagship casino in London “in exchange for significant compensation”. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Patrick Duffy said further growth will be achieved through developing its existing clubs and expanding its online presence, by developing its website and the range of games it offers. The company is also pursuing several claims with HM Revenue & Customs for overpaid VAT, claiming that between 1996 and 2002 it paid it on gross bingo takings rather than those net of added prize money. It said: “No assets have historically been recognised in respect of these claims on the grounds that success is not assessed as probable at this time.” 

Cubitt House launches pastry academy: London gastropub operator Cubitt House, which is backed by funds managed by TDR Capital, the owner of Stonegate Group, has launched a pastry academy. The internal training platform, which will focus on building classic and modern pastry skills, will help participants expand their knowledge and expertise while continuing in their current roles. Led by chef director Ben Tish alongside executive pastry chef Neradah Hartnett, the course will cover everything from sweet pastry and blind baking to crème diplomat and mirror glazing. With classes taking place at The Princess Royal pub in Notting Hill, it will last for three months, with candidates receiving a certificate of merit on completion. Hartnett said: “I’m excited to be launching the pastry academy under the guidance of Ben Tish. The kitchen can be so busy and bustling, and this gives us the time and space to really teach the skills to the candidates every term.”

North Yorkshire gastropub operator acquires Leeds site for six-figure sum for second venue: North Yorkshire gastropub operator Three’s A Crowd has doubled up after acquiring one of Leeds’ oldest pubs in a six-figure deal. The company, owned and run by John Quinlan, has added The Reliance to its existing venue in Harrogate. The Reliance will reopen in February following a refurbishment. All 20 of The Reliance’s staff will be retained with a further ten jobs being created. Based in North Street and spread over two floors, the venue will seat up to 82 diners and will offer monthly events, tastings with locally sourced food and a bespoke, hand-picked wine list. Quinlan, who has a background in fine dining, opened the Harrogate venue in West Park almost four years ago. He said: “Three’s A Crowd has gone from strength to strength since 2019 as we carved out our own cult following in Harrogate. It’s a huge honour to play a role in The Reliance's significant story. The pub is more than just a venue, it’s an institution, which I’m committed to upholding and keeping alive as we breathe new life into it. To commemorate this new chapter, Three’s A Crowd will continue to serve The Reliance’s bitter.”

Tap & Tandoor to open third site: Indian gastro-pub operator Tap & Tandoor is to open its third site, in Southampton. The business, which is led by husband-and-wife team, Ajay and Shivani Kenth, has secured the former CAU restaurant site in the Westquay scheme in the city, with an opening scheduled for March. The Kenths operate sites under the Tap & Tandoor concept, which offers craft beer and Indian food, in Solihull and Peterborough. They also operate the street food and cocktail bar Zindiya in Moseley. A spokesperson for Tap & Tandoor said: “We're thrilled to be opening our third Tap & Tandoor this year bringing our concept to the south coast. We are looking forward to joining the vibrant food scene at Westquay.”

Smokeworks enters competitive socialising market with interactive darts experience: Cambridge barbecue concept Smokeworks has entered the competitive socialising market. The company, led by Max Freeman, has launched Slingers at its Station Road venue – an interactive digital darts experience “that combines the classic Smokeworks offerings of great food, drinks, and service with a fun and competitive social activity”. Freeman said: “As the world continues post-pandemic, it's become increasingly clear people are looking for new and unique ways to enjoy their time out of the house. At Smokeworks, we understand that going out isn't just about grabbing a drink and something to eat – it's about finding a way to make the experience memorable and enjoyable. That's why we've decided to introduce Slingers to our menu.”

Chef Joshua Hunter to open second site: Chef Joshua Hunter is to open a modern European dining restaurant in Kew, south west London, for his second site. Hunter has partnered with Patra Panas to launch Hawthorn. Hunter – who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants such as Kitchen W8, Murano by Angela Hartnett, and La Trompette – will use predominantly British seasonal ingredients. He said: “My vision for the food at Hawthorn is simply to cook food people really want to eat.” Panas will oversee the front of house operations, having managed venues including The Athenaeum private members club and La Trompette, as well as The Glasshouse, the former restaurant site Hawthorn is located on in Station Parade. The 60-cover restaurant will open on Wednesday, 1 February. Hunter also operates restaurant Joshua Hunter at Holland & Holland Shooting Grounds in Northwood, north west London, which opened in 2019.

Marugame Udon to open first west London site with Kensington launch on Saturday: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon will open its first west London site with the launch of a kitchen in Kensington on Saturday (21 January). Following eight openings across the city, the company is opening the 3,242 square-foot, 92-cover site, in Kensington Arcade. It will offer the business’ staple menu of udon bowls, tempura, omusubi rice balls, and desserts. Keith Bird, Marugame Udon chief executive, said: “We are excited to be opening our first neighbourhood kitchen in west London. We chose Kensington Arcade to be among a great selection of retailers and food outlets and we’re excited to be expanding Marugame Udon once again.” Last month, Propel revealed Marugame Udon 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 London at Liverpool Street station and The Strand, as well as its first regional site, in Reading.

HotBox opens first sit-down restaurant for third site with Boxpark Croydon launch: Smoked barbecue meat restaurant HotBox has opened its first sit-down restaurant and third site, at Boxpark Croydon. It marks the first opening since the business was sold in March 2022 to financier Adhum Carter. The concept offers seasoned smoked meat using a combination of kiln-dried hickory and oak in its one-tonne rotisserie smokers including the HotBox Bandit Burger with brisket, chimichurri, chipotle aioli and aged beef patties; as well as beef short ribs and sticky pork ribs. HotBox, which started out as street food business, operates concessions at Market Halls’ Fulham and Victoria site. 

Company behind Cornish hotel trebles turnover and returns to profit: The company behind the St Michael's Hotel, in the Cornish town of Falmouth, recorded an increase in revenue and a return to profit in the year ended 31 March 2022. St Michaels is a four-star deluxe resort, relaunched in September 2018, and aiming to become the south west's pre-eminent resort hotel. The resort features 84 bedrooms, the St Michaels Spa, fitness and sporting facilities, two restaurants, a bar and tropical private gardens. Turnover for the year was £8,582,873 compared with £3,105,505 in the previous year, while the company recorded a profit before tax of £680,635 (2021: loss of £1,401,072). Pre-pandemic, the business turned over £7,537,285. Having lived and worked in Kenya in the 1990s as group managing director for Block Hotels, chairman and co-owner Nigel Carpenter decided to return to the UK with his young family in 2001. Taken by the beauty and way of life in Cornwall, Carpenter came across St Michaels in Falmouth, a tired seaside hotel bathrooms that he decided “needed some serious TLC”. Seeing potential in the hotel's location overlooking Gyllyngvase Beach, Carpenter embarked on a journey to turn the hotel around, involving a total refurbishment in the 2000s and a recent partnership with James Houlston, of BH Hotels, raising a £50m investment. Carpenter said: “The core hotel business has remained strong this year with occupancy levels remaining high. Significant growth in the spa and health club facilities have helped establish St Michael's as a dominant competitor in the south-west, while this year saw the opening of the Liner Apartments, which bring in an additional revenue stream.”

Dough Hands to take kitchen residency at new Exale site: Dough Hands, the neo-Neapolitan pizza concept from Hannah Drye, is to be the kitchen resident of the new pub opening in Bethnal Green, east London, from Exale Brewing. The company said: “Expect pizzas that use quality, well sourced ingredients that don’t focus on the traditional rules but instead on flavours that slap you round the chops, we’re talking nduja, gorgonzola and Dr Sting’s hot honey. Egg yolk, pancetta and whipped ricotta. Mortadella, pickles and American mustard all sitting on a crust you actually want to eat. Also some epic sides, think deep fried olives on whipped lemony ricotta and buratta with confit tomato and garlic, plus so much more on her ever changing, seasonal menu.” East London brewer Exale Brewing is set to open its new neighbourhood pub – the Three Colts – next month, with five more to follow by 2028. The company, which already operates a taproom in Walthamstow, will open the pub at 199 Cambridge Heath Road. 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.

Gordon Ramsay-trained chef opens new walk in-only burger restaurant in Birmingham: Gordon Ramsay-trained chef Jamie Desogus, owner of Birmingham British-cooking concept Harborne Kitchen, has opened his new walk in-only burger restaurant in the city. The Bun & Barrel, the brainchild of Desogus and long-time friend Rob Hennerby, have opened the new venture in High Street, Harborne. The Bun & Barrel house burger is made from Himalayan salt aged beef and infused with bone marrow, while the demi brioche bun is made from scratch by the Harborne Kitchen team. Other highlights include a surf and turf burger, with confit and seared pork belly, scallop and a crab bun with soft shell tempura and mango and chilli salsa. There will also be locally brewed beer from Attic Brewery and a selection of barrel-aged cocktails and natural wine from Wine Freedom on draught. Desogus said: “Our aim is to serve the best burgers on the block and we're excited to see our guests kicking back and relaxing in our restaurant with a burger and a beer in hand.”

Kent bakery concept set to open fourth site: Kent bakery concept Garage Coffee Roasters is set to open a fourth site, in Herne Bay, later this month. Luke Underdown, who launched the business in 2015 and runs it with wife Alice, has acquired the former Bayked site in the town’s High Street, which closed last year. The pair already own stores in Canterbury, Whitstable and Margate and a roastery in Hoath. “I live in Herne Bay and we supplied Bayked with our coffee, so we were really sad to see it go,” Underwood told Kent Live. “We have been looking for a space to expand our bakery as we currently bake everything in our Canterbury shop. It became available and it was the perfect opportunity – we are going to build on what Bayked started.” The new shop, which will be takeaway only but with a few outside tables, will offer the chain’s signature coffee alongside sourdough bread, croissants, sandwiches and sausage rolls. It will launch on Saturday, 28 January.

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