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Mon 23rd Jan 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Apogee founder and the founders of venture capital firm Talis Capital behind Crussh acquisition: Jason Collins, the founder of Apogee, the UK office digital solutions provider; and Bob and Rohini Finch, founders of venture capital firm Talis Capital, are among the investors behind the rescue from administration of food-to-go and juice bar brand Crussh, Propel has learned. Earlier this month, the majority of the London business Crussh was saved as part of a pre-pack administration deal. Propel revealed before Christmas the 11-strong business had appointed advisors at FRP to carry out an accelerated sales process and earlier this month it filed an intention to appoint administrators. More than 160 jobs were saved following the sale out of the business, with eight sites transferring over to the new owners – an unnamed investor group. The business will continue to be led by chief executive Simon Foster. Propel can reveal the investor group includes Jadenfinch UK, which is the family office investment vehicle of the Finches; JPH Investments 2022, which is part of the Jason Patrick holding group, controlled by Collins, who is the founder of Apogee, which was purchased by HP in 2018 for £380m; and Tolladine Estates, an investment vehicle controlled by investors Simon Waterfield and Ralph Congreve. The investor group told Propel: “We are attracted to the Crussh brand due to its focus on providing healthy, environmentally friendly and delicious food to both retail and wholesale customers. We have been visiting Crussh shops for many years and have always felt its offering was ahead of its time; today’s renewed focus on healthy eating with a strong plant-based core of products will encourage more people to learn about and enjoy Crussh products. Crussh has provided uninterrupted service to both the loyal users of its retail outlets as well as its growing corporate customer base over the past month. This is a tribute to the company’s management and staff, who stayed focused on their customers during an uncertain time for all. Simon Foster and his excellent team have committed to continuing with Crussh. Crussh’s BRC AA grade kitchen, based in Barking, allows it to supply well regarded customers such as Sainsbury’s, WHSmith, Sodexo and Gate Gourmet with products that meet Natasha’s law requirements. The investor group was also drawn to a breadth of channels in which the Crussh product has good traction including travel retail, grocery, foodservice, and on-board dining. We are pleased to support Crussh on its journey towards becoming the UK leader in delicious, fit food.” Propel understands a total consideration of £640,896 was paid for the majority of the Crussh business. On appointment of administrators, Crussh had approximately 175 unsecured creditors owed a total of circa £10.6m.
 

Industry News:

Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to launch today: Propel’s The Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will launch today (Monday, 23 January), at noon – 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.
 
Sixty Eight People recruiting chefs from abroad to help ease sector staffing crisis: Hospitality recruitment company Sixty Eight People has launched a new division focused on recruiting chefs from abroad to help ease the sector’s staffing crisis. The Manchester company said its new department sources skilled chefs of all levels and guides companies through the process of gaining a sponsorship licence. It has invested heavily in developing a pipeline of international talent, with 45 chefs already in place following a successful pilot scheme. Sixty Eight People managing director Charlotte Kemp said: “We knew it needed a pilot scheme. The intricacies of not only choosing great employers but being able to assess the skill levels of candidates was essential. Also, we needed to fully understand the process and timescales, so our clients knew exactly what to expect. For the sake of hospitality, we hope the government rethink its immigration policy, but for now, this is how we can do our bit. The process can take between two and five months, depending on whether operators have an existing international sponsorship licence or need to apply. We provide practical support and have a legal partner to offer advice and guidance.” It is estimated 20,000 chefs will leave the industry in the UK this year, placing further pressure on the domestic talent pool. And while the process post-Brexit is more complex, international chefs are now billed as “skilled workers” by the UK government and can come here to work. Sixty Eight People founder Abi Dunn added: “I’m so happy to be able to support our clients with one of their biggest headaches, but also excited to provide great places to work for our overseas candidates. The response to the pilot scheme has been fantastic from both the operators and the candidates.” Hospitality businesses can access a free webinar here to find out how they can benefit from a pool of international talent.

Tipping legislation a step closer to becoming law: A bill that will ban hospitality businesses from holding back staff tips and place strict controls on how service charge is managed is on track to become law after gaining cross-party support in parliament. The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill had its final reading in parliament at the end of last week and will now go forward to the House of Lords. If approved in the upper house, it is expected to achieve royal assent in the spring when it will become law. Plans to legislate in this area have been delayed since 2015 when a government consultation found restaurant customers were overwhelmingly in favour of the tips they paid going to the people who served them. Further research the same year found many owners of restaurants, bars, and cafes add discretionary service charges to customers' bills but then keep some of the money themselves. Under the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill, employers would have a legal obligation on employers to ensure all tips, gratuities and service charges are paid to workers in full. Employees will be able to request tipping records and take employers to a tribunal if they feel tips have been withheld. The long-delayed legislation would also enable the government to create a code of practice intended to ensure fairness and transparency in how the money is allocated among staff, and introduce an enforcement mechanism for employees to make complaints and seek redress. Tory MP Virginia Crosbie, speaking during the bill's third reading, said: “The tipping bill has a simple message: to promote fairness and to promote transparency, to ensure that workers receive the tips they earn. It will create confidence for consumers, who will know the full value of the tip they give will go to the workers. It is estimated this bill will benefit around one million workers in the sector, with a financial benefit of around £200 each year.”

EDF admits 2,000 small businesses did not receive energy bill relief: One of the UK’s largest energy providers has admitted it is failing to pass on emergency government help with bills to about 2,000 small businesses. EDF admitted to The Times that “systems issues” meant certain businesses had not received the correct state-funded discount. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has been asked by the government to examine whether the industry is correctly passing on subsidies to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme, introduced last September, provides a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for all non-domestic consumers. Suppliers are supposed to apply reductions automatically. However, business owners said despite being eligible for deductions to their energy bills since October, they are yet to receive any relief. EDF admitted there was an issue but insisted that instances of overbilling were rare and a spokeswoman said: “Where this has happened, customers will be contacted and a new bill will be sent. Approximately 2,000 of our SME customers have been billed incorrectly. We have already reviewed these accounts, and we are aiming for all affected customers to have corrected bills issued by the end of next week.” Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser to Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, said there was a significant issue and that it tends to be small and micro businesses that are not receiving the appropriate relief. He said: “The bigger chains, the ones that have the machine behind them, they’re getting the support. It’s the smaller family-run businesses that aren’t and they’re the ones we’re going to see drop away.”

Learn your lessons from Scottish deposit return scheme, trade bodies tells governments: UKHospitality has told the government it must learn its lessons from the Scottish deposit return scheme (DRS) before rolling it out in England. Ministers are set to finally give the go-ahead to a scheme for the return of plastic bottles, following a roll-out in Scotland, which is due to go live this summer. An English scheme would not be introduced until at least 2025, which UKHospitality hopes will give time to iron out the sort of problems that have affected its implementation in Scotland. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “As we have seen in Scotland, the introduction of a deposit return scheme is a colossal and complex undertaking. Lessons must be learned from that scheme, in particular the need for ample time to bring businesses along on the journey to ensure it is workable. The government’s planned implementation in 2025 is an encouraging start. There will be nuances between sectors that need factoring into the scheme’s design. For example, the operation of an online takeback scheme is simply not practical for hospitality. We would encourage the government to provide an exemption for this, like in Scotland.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “The delay to the implementation of a DRS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland until October 2025 at the earliest is a positive move. We are urging the government to swiftly appoint a deposit management organisation to ensure businesses are provided with requirement information as early as possible. The complex nature of DRS means the operational challenge is extremely large, and it is crucial further information is provided as we move ever nearer to the implementation date in Scotland if the scheme is to operate effectively and efficiently.” 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a listed business with multiple brands and offers that is looking for a chief people officer. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “This role will make an impact at all levels of the business. Ideally, it would like someone who is comfortable working across multiple projects. As well as creating an industry-leading business culture, this role will be focused on employee engagement, talent development and addressing all recruitment and workforce challenges.” The salary is up to £160,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email gemma@corecruitment.com
 

Company News: 

Côte appoints Sarah Hills as new chief operating officer: Côte, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has appointed Sarah Hills, who was previously managing director of Bill’s, Wagamama, and most recently Megan’s, as its new chief operating officer, Propel has learned. Hills stepped down as managing director of Megan’s, the fast-growing, cafe and deli concept, last summer. Most recently she has been leading the development of Brightside, the new roadside concept from Loungers, which launches next month. Propel understands Hills will join the Jane Holbrook-chaired Côte in April and will be responsible for operations, people and supply chain at the French brasserie chain. At the same time, Propel understands Tamsyn Allington, formerly of St Austell Brewery and Zizzi, is to join Côte as its new people director. Allington stepped down as communications and people director at St Austell Brewery last November after four and a half years with the business. Prior to that she spent seven and a half years at Zizzi, including a stint as its head of HR. It is also thought Côte is combining its marketing and growth functions, with both now set to come under the remit of the brand’s chief growth officer Andre Johnstone. Propel also understands David Murdin, formerly of BA, Whitbread, Costa and Wagamama, has stepped down as Côte’s chief marketing officer.

Hong Kong-based activist fund takes stake in The Restaurant Group: Activist fund manager Oasis Management has taken a stake in Wagamama and Brunning & Price-owner The Restaurant Group (TRG), raising the prospect of a restructuring of the pub and restaurant company. Bloomberg reported the Hong Kong-based company Oasis, which previously ran a successful activist campaign at British manufacturer Premier Foods, has acquired a 5% stake in TRG. Daniel Wosner, Oasis’ European head, has already contacted TRG’s management team, according to a person familiar with the matter. TRG operates circa 420 restaurants and pubs across the UK, including chains such as Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Barburrito. The company’s shares have fallen nearly 65% over the past year, with its market value standing at around £268m well below the £559m it paid to acquire Wagamama in 2018. In December, its existing lenders agreed to amend and expand its credit facilities. Oasis is best known in the UK for securing a seat on Premier Foods’ board and fighting to remove its former chief executive, Gavin Darby. Oasis said Premier “mismanaged” its brands, which include Mr Kipling cakes. Officials from Oasis and TRG declined to comment.

Antony Doyle to lead Loungers roadside concept Brightside: Cafe bar operator Loungers has appointed Antony Doyle, current operations director of its Lounge brand, to oversee the roll-out of its new roadside concept Brightside, Propel has learned. Doyle, who has been with Loungers for almost ten years, will take up the new position of operations director Lounge and Brightside next month. The first Brightside location will open on the A38, south of Exeter, next month with a further two to open in the west country in early FY24. In addition, the first purpose-built Brightside restaurant is set to be developed at the Ram Jam Services, on the northbound section of the A1 in Rutland. In time, Loungers believes there is scope to develop a “truly national brand”. Sarah Hills, the former Bill’s and Megan’s managing director, who has been leading the development of Brightside for Loungers will hand over the project to Doyle at the start of March, before taking up the chief operating officer role at Côte. Nick Collins, Loungers chief executive, told Propel: “For almost ten years, Antony has played a fundamental role in shaping the Lounge business and evolving the amazing culture among our team as we have moved from 28 sites to 180. We are enormously excited about the potential for Brightside and believe there is a real opportunity to grow this business into a sizeable third brand. I know there is no-one better placed to lead Brightside as it starts this journey. Last year, we asked Sarah Hills to come and work with us as a consultant to help create the Brightside brand and get the first site open. She has played a hugely influential role in the birth of Brightside and will leave Loungers as a great friend of the business and with enormous respect from me and the executive team for a job very well done.” 

Gail’s confirms further north west openings: Fast-growing bakery brand Gail’s, which will make its debut in the north west, with an opening in Wilmslow, Cheshire, next month, has confirmed it has lined up a further two openings in the region. The Wilmslow site will open in the town’s Water Lane on Thursday, 16 February. The Bain Capital-backed business has now confirmed it will also open on the former White Stuff unit in Manchester’s King Street, and a unit in Shaw’s Road, Altrincham. Both are expected to open later this year. It has also submitted plans to convert the former La Boutique d’Or site in King Street, Knutsford. The opening of sites in the region reinforces the company’s long-standing ties to the area following The Bread Factory, Gail’s sister-brand and wholesale bakery, opening its Manchester bakery in Openshaw in 2017. The brand opened its 100th site last October in East Sheen, south west London.

Fitch reaffirms negative outlook on Stonegate’s long-term issuer default rating: Ratings agency Fitch has affirmed Stonegate Pub Company’s long-term issuer default rating (IDR) at “B-” with a negative outlook, which it said reflected the refinance risk of Stonegate's secured debt maturing in mid-2025. Fitch also highlighted Stonegate's vulnerability to the UK consumer whose “discretionary spend may decrease wet sales despite the group's diverse portfolio of brands, locations, and operating models”. Fitch said: “Although Stonegate's product offer is not big-ticket, less frequency of visits and resistance to premiumisation may result in lower sales, while operating-cost increases persist. This would delay further the planned conversion of pubs to fuel the group’s future Ebitda growth, which would aid its mid-2025 refinancing.” Stonegate is rated in line with Punch Pubs Group (IDR: B-/stable), which has a portfolio of 1,276 pubs versus Stonegate's 4,516. Both are predominantly wet-led estates. Fitch said: “Punch’s Ebitda per pub in leased and tenanted is comparable with Stonegate's 2020 Enterprise Inn-acquired lease and tenanted portfolio but Stonegate's managed portfolio yields higher profits per pub than Punch’s, reflecting the size of the average unit, drink sales per pub, and the benefits of a bigger group's central procurement. Punch’s managed portfolio is less town centre-based than Stonegate's, whose city and late-night formats (which have also been disrupted by pandemic restrictions) are more vulnerable to cost pressures (labour, energy) in the current inflationary environment. When less disrupted trading conditions resume, Stonegate should benefit from higher profits from this segment of its portfolio. Both companies’ underlying strategy is to convert leased and tenanted pubs within their respective portfolios by injecting new management and capex to increase Ebitda per pub. The difference in outlook at the same ‘B-’ IDR reflects Punch's stronger financial flexibility than Stonegate's, with less pressure on liquidity, and the former's pub conversion programme (part-equity funded) already underway before the pandemic.” It comes as the Sunday Times reported Stonegate’s backer TDR Capital, and Mohsin and Zuber Issa are exploring a merger of Asda and EG Group, the owner of Leon. The merger talks are being held before a crunch refinancing at EG Group, which has £7bn of debt falling due in 2025. Through a combination of two profitable businesses – which are both jointly owned by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital – the owners expect to be able to refinance the debt on better terms.

Gusto appoints Kat Schofield as new head of marketing: Premium casual dining restaurant group Gusto Italian has appointed Kat Schofield as its new head of marketing, Propel has learned. Schofield will join the 13-strong business in April from Revolution Bars Group where she currently heads up brand marketing for its Revolución de Cuba concept. The Matt Snell-led company said she will support further development and amplification of the “outstanding experiences that Gusto Italian has become renowned for”, while bringing a new level of expertise to the group’s digital offer, helping to drive personalisation. Snell said: “Kat is an experienced marketeer who already has a deep understanding of and affinity with our brand. She is a serious foodie and we look forward to seeing the direction she will take our food offer. She has driven the marketing functions for national brands and we can’t wait to see the benefit this level of experience will bring to our marketing activity and the leadership team at Gusto Italian.” Schofield who was recognised by Restaurant Marketer & Innovator in its 2022 “30 Under 30” list of talented future leaders in marketing, innovation and strategy roles, has also held senior marketing roles working on premium brands at Marston’s and Greene King. Schofield said: “I believe the potential for Gusto is massive. I can’t wait to dive in and help the brand continue on its impressive growth trajectory and position Gusto Italian as the go-to destination for special occasions.” 

Lebaneats sets 50-site target and lines up first express venue, brings in former Whitbread head of marketing: London Lebanese grab-and-go concept Lebaneats has set a 50-site target after kick-starting its expansion plans with its first sites outside the capital. Its next batch of openings will also see the brand make its express format debut, which it is also looking to roll out further. Propel revealed in July the concept, founded in 2010, was planning to grow its estate of five central London sites to 25 across the UK through a mixture of company-owned and franchised openings. It has since added another London site, in Soho, and opened regional sites in Windsor, Canterbury and Sheffield. It has also added Chris Lewis, former restaurants marketing director at Whitbread, to the leadership team, bolstering its strategy and marketing capabilities. “We said initially that getting to 25 was the plan for the year, but that will now be our target for 2024,” co-founder Hakeem Abdul told Propel. “I then think we can get to 50 over the next five years. We will be opening our first express site soon, and we will look to open more of these. There are other companies offering Lebanese food, but not in quick service, they tend to be more dine-in restaurants. Our expansion plans started in 2017, and we wanted to go into the franchise market early in 2020, but covid prevented that. We’re looking for a mixture of company-owned and franchised openings.” While covid lockdowns are hopefully now a thing of the past, Abdul admits the cost-of-living crisis and rocketing utility bills still do not make future planning easy. “We don’t know where it will end, so it is a worry, but everyone is in the same boat, and until we know when it will end, we cannot plan accordingly,” he added. “We look at price increase assessments one month, and the next month you have to look at other cost increases. Footfall is good, but currently only across three or four days of the week. However, compared with pre-covid, I’d say we’re getting there, about 60-70%”
 
Creams shareholder Salonica Maroon increase stake, 15 new sites in pipeline: Salonica Maroon has acquired a further shareholding in dessert parlour operator Creams. Salonica Maroon co-invested, alongside majority shareholder Pistachio Holdings in December 2020, and since then Creams has gone from strength to strength. The additional investment reaffirms Salonica’s commitment to Creams growth and establishing it as a world-class dessert brand. Despite the recent uncertain macroenvironment, Creams has been bolstering its senior management team. Most recently, it appointed Everett Fieldgate as chief executive to turbocharge its growth in the UK, particularly in the north of England, and internationally. A flagship store in Manchester Arndale Centre opened in December and there are 15 new locations in the pipeline including a new store in Streatham, south London, within Tesco this week. Investment director of Salonica Maroon, Omar Majid, said: “Pistachio Holdings and Salonica Maroon have worked very closely to develop the Creams brand and strategy and we are confident our new chief executive will support us in creating a platform for exceptional growth and support our ambitions to make Creams a truly world class global food and beverage brand.” Creams has 100 sites in the UK.
 
Gary Neville’s Manchester hotel ‘outperforming its competitors’ as it makes a ‘very encouraging’ recovery post-pandemic: Gary Neville has said the hotel he owns with former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs is “outperforming its competitors” as it makes a “very encouraging” recovery post-pandemic. Neville added the Stock Exchange Hotel, located in a grade II-listed building in Manchester’s Norfolk Street, had achieved record average room rates over the last 12 months. His comments came in the accounts for the hotel’s operating business for 2021, the first year for which the hotel’s finances have been published in full. During 2021, the hotel’s turnover increased from £1.6m to £3.9m, while its pre-tax losses narrowed from £2.3m to £1m. On how the hotel faired during 2022, Neville said it had aimed to get back to its pre-pandemic performance, while its forecasts showed a “positive positioning for the hotel in terms of average room rate (ADR), occupancy, Ebitda and cash generation”. He added the figures are “very encouraging, whereby the property has achieved record ADRs as well as outperforming its competitors”. He said: “The directors have continued their policy of investing in the hotel to improve operational performance and to promote the Stock Exchange brand, even post the pandemic year. The directors feel whatever the case, the quality of the brand and the property they manage cannot be sacrificed. There is a strong focus on always investing and enhancing the customer experience and providing a high level of service.” In December, it was announced Joe and Daniel Schofield would open a restaurant called The Stock Market Grill at the hotel in February. This will replace The Bull & Bear, which Tom Kerridge previously operated at the venue.
 
The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company promotes Fergus Stewart to CEO: The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company has promoted Fergus Stewart to chief executive following upwards of 20 months in the role of deputy managing director. Stewart, who remains in his position as general manager of The Landmark London will take the lead across all the hotels in the capital, which also include the Royal Lancaster, K West Hotel & Spa and Basil Street Apartments. Stewart will run with several projects across the group, as well as leading on growth and cross-hotel synergies and collaborations. At The Landmark London, Stewart is leading a £1.3m renovation and repositioning of the hotel – set for completion this April. Stewart will also be leading on the rebrand of K West Shepherds Bush into Hotel Indigo by IHG Hotels & Resorts. Due to reopen in spring 2025, Hotel Indigo London K West Shepherds Bush is undergoing a significant refurbishment and will feature a new design and destination restaurant and bar. Before joining the business, Stewart held senior positions at several international luxury hotel brands, including senior vice-president and acting chief operating officer at Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts based in Dubai. Stewart said: “During my time as deputy managing director, we have made great progress with our hotels, namely in facilitating large scale renovations and repositioning of both The Landmark London and K West Hotel & Spa. There are some extremely exciting things in the pipeline, and I’m thrilled to be overseeing the growth of our destinations, teams and accolades across the board.”

Sandbox VR to double up with Birmingham opening: Immersive social experience concept Sandbox VR is to double up with an opening in Birmingham. The concept, which made its debut in London last summer, has agreed a deal with Hammerson for a site at the Grand Central shopping centre. The 13,000 square-foot unit – set to open this summer – is the brand’s third in Europe and largest to date. Since it was launched in Hong Kong in 2017, the concept is now live in 20 locations and five countries around the world. It aims to be an immersive social experience through a combination of full-body motion capture and VR technologies. It allows players to step into another world and go anywhere with their friends. Founded by Steve Zhao, the company raised $37m in a Series B fundraising round last autumn to aid its further expansion. It is opening in the UK under a franchise deal with the Andy Scanlon-led VR Entertainment Group. Jake Wilmot-Sitwell, co-founder and chief operating officer at Sandbox VR UK & Ireland, said: “Following our successful launch in Covent Garden last year, we wanted to kick off our expansion across the UK and Ireland by launching the biggest Sandbox VR site in the UK’s second city. As the West Midlands’ best-connected retail and leisure destination, the Bullring Estate is the ideal location.”

Golf club operator sees jump in revenue and profits, opens new facility: Alexander Fraser Holdings, which owns and operates Foxhills Golf and Country Club and Farleigh Golf Club in Surrey, saw a jump in turnover and profits in the year ended 31 March 2022, while expanding the Foxhills facility. Turnover for the period was £18,297,868 compared with £6,555,769 in the previous year, while the company reported a profit before tax of £4,618,238 (2021: profit of £132,256). The turnover figure means the company is now trading at levels higher than that seen the last pre-pandemic year ended March 2020 (£14,615,869). Dividends totalling £528,278 were paid (2021: nil). In a statement accompanying the accounts, the directors Mark and Pamela Hayton stated: “The group opened a new major facility at Foxhills in May 2022, called The Pavilion, which houses a restaurant, leisure facilities for all ages and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. This investment has enabled the group to grow turnover in the year to 31 March 2022. The group continues to invest annually in the facilities to keep the product in line with our members and guests’ expectations. The group ended the year with a healthy balance sheet, displaying a strong net asset and total equity position of £49,361,556 (2021: £47,072,542). The net asset position is helped by a strong cash and in hand balance of £3,415,053 (2021: £4,486,799). The company repaid a £5m Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan from Handlesbanken on 27 October 2021.”
 
Big Mamma Group opens new ‘pleasure palace’ site Jacuzzi in Kensington: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare, has opened Jacuzzi, a four-storied “pleasure palace”, in High Street Kensington. As previously reported, it is the group’s fourth venue in the capital and first in west London, and its most luxurious opening to date. Offering an “indulgent menu filled with only the very best Italian prodotti” this includes Saltimbocca alla Romana (tender English rosé veal with fior di latte mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and sage), and Lobster Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (with a rich cuttlefish ragu filled with frutti di mare, including Cornish lobster and clams). This will be complimented by an Italian-focused wine list. Spanning three floors and spread across 4,000 square feet, the restaurant offers 70 covers and a retractable glass ceiling on the Sicilian mezzanine floor, which becomes a sunlit terrazza in summer. The group, which operates circa 20 restaurants across France, England and Spain, last year opened a debut bricks-and-mortar site for its pizza delivery concept, Napoli Gang, in London’s Ladbroke Grove. It also submitted plans to convert the former Natural Kitchen site in Marylebone High Street to a restaurant spread over ground and first floors.

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