Story of the Day:
Number of leisure units increases by 8,000 in a year as sector expands into vacant retail spaces: The number of leisure properties in the UK has increased from 291,000 to 299,000 in the past year as the leisure sector expands into vacant retail space, according to new research. Gyms increased by 8% from 4,400 units in 2021 to 4,750 in 2022; cafes increased 2.4%, from 16,070 to 16,450; while in-store cafes have increased by 17%, from 640 to 750, as retailers install them to encourage shoppers to spend more time in store. The analysis of Valuation Office Agency data shows the number of shops and other retail units in the UK has fallen from 511,000 to 510,000 over the same period. More retailers have been forced to close as consumers reduce spending during the cost-of-living crisis. On top of this, retail properties now have a vacancy rate of 13.9%, according to the British Retail Consortium. Reduced demand from bricks and mortar retail coupled with lower rents and more competitive deals for vacant space on high streets and in shopping centres has allowed more leisure operators to lease premises they might not previously have been considered available, said commercial law firm EMW. Terence Ritchie, principal at EMW, said leisure businesses are also taking up prime high-street locations that were previously just the domain of retailers. This progression has been aided by commercial property investors starting to view leisure businesses as an attractive investment asset class in their own right, rather than as a retail ‘bolt-on’, he added. “There’s a fundamental change happening on British high streets,” Ritchie said. “More leisure turns shopping centres and high streets into their own destination, bringing friends and family together for longer dwell times. These people are more likely to spend elsewhere and revisit.”
Number of experiential concepts to feature in next edition of The New Openings Database, 12,700-word report included:
A number of experiential concepts will feature in the next edition of The New Openings Database.
The database will show the details of 256 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (3 February), at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features boutique bowling company, Lane7, which has opened the debut site for its family entertainment centre concept – Level X
– in the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow. Also added this month is Boxpark,
the hospitality and leisure operator, which is to open its sixth site – and first outside the capital for its eponymous brand – in Liverpool later this year. Meanwhile, The Park Playground,
the now 13-strong Belgium-based, VR experience concept, founded in 2018, which has made its UK debut, in Leeds' Falcon House, will be featured. In addition, entertainment brand Pacha Group, which will open its debut UK site next month, with the launch of Lío London,
in London’s Coventry Street, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 12,700-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database,
produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book;
the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database;
and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage,
which was sent to Premium subscribers for the first time last week. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to upgrade your subscription.
Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of Friday Wrap interviews and 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 our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
Average wages for hospitality workers rise 53% in past ten years, highest of any UK industry: The fastest-rising wages in the UK over the past decade have been in the hospitality sector, with average weekly earnings for full-time workers rising 53% from £328 per week in 2012 to £502 per week in 2022, according to new research. The Office for National Statistics data showed sector workers have also experienced the fastest wage inflation in the past year, with average weekly earnings jumping 23% from £409 in 2021 to £502 in 2022. The average hospitality worker has experienced four times as much wage inflation as the UK’s average worker, with average wages increasing 4.9% from £696 per week in 2021 to £729 in 2022. Chartered accountants and business advisers Hazlewoods said the increase in wages over the past decade is partly due to rises in the National Minimum Wage. This figure has risen by 53% in the last ten years, from £6.19 per hour in 2012 to £9.50 in 2022. Wage inflation in the hospitality sector in the past year has also been fuelled by labour shortages, with Brexit restrictions reducing the number of workers coming to the UK from the EU. Under the UK’s new immigration system, overseas workers must apply for a skilled worker visa. However, relatively few jobs in hospitality meet the skill and salary criteria required. As a result of these shortages, employers have been forced to increase wages to attract British and Irish nationals to these positions. Rebecca Copping, associate partner at Hazlewoods, said: “Hospitality workers have seen minimum wage rises and Brexit combine to drive up their wages sharply over the past ten years. Recruiting from what is a now a finite pool of workers in a much more competitive market has meant pay levels have had to increase markedly.”
UKHospitality – sector can drive government’s plan for economic growth with the right support: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has said the sector can drive the government’s plan for economic growth – with the right support. Responding to chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s plan to help lift the UK’s economic growth, Nicholls said: “While the chancellor was clearly focused on digital technology, green industries and life sciences, it is important to recognise hospitality can equally be a key driver of economic growth, playing an integral part of the everyday economy. Just recently, hospitality was credited for the unexpected growth we saw in November, bucking the long-term trend, and with the right support and investment it can deliver those results consistently. We can drive the economy forward and help put the brakes on inflation. Staffing is critical to that and the chancellor was right to mention the need to get the economically inactive back into work. Hospitality has, literally, thousands of jobs available and a fantastic track record of creating careers – whether that’s an apprenticeship, a career change, or an opportunity to get back into work later in life. There will always be new and emerging areas of the economy but the government would do well to recognise that established sectors, like hospitality, are the ones that will pull the nation forward. We have the determination to overcome challenges, the innovation to embrace new trends and the capacity to offer jobs to so many. I hope it recognises that when delivering its plan for growth.”
Almost three-quarters of staff work in hospitality for the ‘social aspects’: Almost three-quarters (72%) of sector employees have cited the “social aspects” of hospitality as the best thing about the industry. Flexible shifts (30%), building a rapport with customers (29%) and career development (28%) are revealed as the next best things about working in hospitality, according to the latest research from the Licensed Trade Charity, conducted by KAM. However, increased pressure due to staff shortages (37%) featured top of respondents’ list of the worst things about working in hospitality, followed by reduced income (21%), extra shifts (19%), high customer expectations (14%) and job security (12%). The pressure due to staff shortages was felt across all age groups, but most keenly experienced by the older 55 to 64-year-olds (46.3%). And it was those who had worked in the industry for one year or more who were showing the most fatigue, with results pretty evenly high among the those employed for three to five years (38.8%), ten-plus years (38.7%) and five to ten years (37.5%). The majority of hospitality workers prioritise their mental well-being to the same degree as their physical well-being, although there was a slight skew towards those aged 18 to 34-years-old prioritising their mental health more, in comparison with older generations.
Job of the day: Alcohol charity Drinkaware is seeking a head of funding partnerships. A spokesperson said: “You will manage our primary income stream and be responsible for the strategic direction of relationships with one of our most important stakeholder groups – our funders. The post reports to the director of business development and partnerships and manages a small team of account management professionals. The role is accountable for building and developing a sustainable funding base for the charity. Key to achieving this will be establishing first-class relationships and embedding a deep understanding of Drinkaware’s role, values and impact among its funders. This includes the creation and delivery of significant, mutually beneficial partnership projects that add value to Drinkaware’s funders and enhance our reach and effectiveness. Drinkaware has set challenging amplification and income targets and the post holder will achieve these through inspirational management and support of the team and strategic collaboration with external stakeholders and other internal directorates.” The salary is £65,000 with the position being a minimum of two days per week in the charity’s office in London’s Moorgate and the remainder remotely. For more information and how to apply, email email@example.com
London bar operator Tequila Mockingbird looking to explore funding options: South London bar operator Tequila Mockingbird has told Propel it is looking at options with regard to external funding or investment to fuel its expansion, as it saw turnover break the £5m mark for the year to the end of 2022. The seven-strong business, which opened a new flagship site, and its first in the West End, last year at 42 William IV Street, Covent Garden, was founded in 2015 by cousins Jonathan Bas and Jake Brennan. Bas told Propel: “We are currently in negotiation on a number of new sites to widen our London presence this year and are now looking at options with regard to external funding or investment to fuel our expansion both locally in 2023, and nationally from 2024 onwards. Turnover and profits have grown rapidly each year since 2019 despite the various challenges presented by covid, with pre pandemic turnover in 2019 of £1,115,195, with a similar figure of £1,118,183 recorded for 2020 despite massive restrictions. 2021 saw a considerable jump to £2,961,828 fuelled by new site openings and increased demand as restrictions eased. 2022 turnover stands at £5,107,391, which versus 2019 pre-pandemic figures constitutes a turnover increase of 358%, with a 683% increase in site Ebitda, rising from £129,607 in 2019 to £1,014,974 in 2022. Our first uninterrupted and unrestricted year post-pandemic ended on 31 December 2022 and saw a rise in turnover to just over £5m, which represents a 72% increase versus 2021, fuelled largely by the opening of our first West End site, and the lack of restrictions that were present in early 2021. Strong December trading saw the company exceed forecasted turnover, and resulted in a 42% year-on-year increase versus December 2021. A record-breaking New Year’s Eve, which saw all our sites sold out in advance of the night for the first time since the brand was founded in 2015, offset the considerably slower than expected week that was affected by train strikes.” Last year, the business appointed David Jenkinson as its new finance director, to help “raise finances to execute further expansion” for the business over the next few years.
Big Table Group to begin Banana Tree roll out with Café Rouge conversions: Big Table Group, the Las Iguanas and Bella Italia operator, is to begin the roll out of the Banana Tree business it acquired last year, with the conversion of two Café Rouge sites, Propel has learned. The first site to be converted to the fast-casual pan-Asian brand will be the ex-Café Rouge site in Wellington Street, Covent Garden. It will be followed by the Café Rouge at the O2 Arena. Big Table Group acquired the nine-strong Banana Tree brand for an undisclosed sum last September, with Anne Chow continuing to lead the brand as managing director. Founded more than 30 years ago by William Chow, Banana Tree started as a single site in London’s Maida Vale and currently operates six sites in the capital along with restaurants in Chelmsford, Milton Keynes and Oxford. Alan Morgan, chief executive of the Big Table Group, said: “We bought Banana Tree with the intention to roll out the brand, and with 160 restaurants in our portfolio, it makes sense to start by converting some existing sites to understand how they would perform with a new offering. We are starting in London, where Banana Tree already has an established presence, and have identified two Café Rouge sites that we think will have a bigger upside operating as a different brand. Wellington Street in Covent Garden will be the first conversion, opening this spring, closely followed by the O2 Arena, which has the added benefit of attracting visitors from across the UK, helping us to raise awareness of Banana Tree among a wider audience. Our ambition is to grow the brand outside London as well, and we will evaluate the performance of these initial conversions before deciding the pace and location of any new sites and further conversions across our existing portfolio of brands.”
Pret opens Veggie Pret innovation site in Oxford: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has opened a Veggie Pret innovation site in Oxford. The site in the city’s Cornmarket is operated by franchisee Dallas Holdings, and comes after reports at the end of last year that Pret was closing the majority of its vegetarian and vegan cuisine-only stores. The chain opened its first Veggie Pret in Soho in 2016, and at its peak, there were ten locations operating under the format across the UK. Out of the ten green outlets, four have closed down and one, the Canary Wharf site, has rebranded into a regular Pret. On the Oxford opening, a Pret spokesperson told Propel: “This new Veggie Pret shop in Oxford is operated by our franchise partner Dallas Holdings. Like our other Veggie Pret shops, it will serve as an innovation hub where we develop new vegan and vegetarian products to be rolled out to classic Prets across the country.” Currently, 33% of main meals sales through Pret are vegetarian or vegan (this includes all sandwiches, salads, soups, hot food breakfast and lunch), and 58% of all products are vegetarian or vegan (excluding barista prepared drinks sales). The group’s autumn menu launch was 50% vegan/veggie options and it said innovation in this area “will continue at pace”. Pret also introduced new vegan and veggie products in its January menu launch with some products coming from Veggie Pret's innovation shops.
Kibou Restaurants eyes Cambridge opening for largest site yet: Kibou Restaurants, the Japanese concept led by Regent Inns founder David Franks, is in talks to open a site in Cambridge. Propel understands Kibou is in legals on a site in the city centre, which will become its largest site to date, with a planned opening for the second quarter of this year. Kibou opened its fourth venue, in Solihull last April. It joined the casual dining operator’s other sites in Bristol, Cheltenham and London’s Battersea. Earlier this month, Propel revealed Kibou had promoted Sam Horswill to joint managing director. Horswill, who joined the group at the end of 2020 as operations director, will lead the business alongside Franks. Prior to joining Kibou, he was head of franchise development at Black & White Hospitality and spent two and a half years at Turtle Bay Restaurants. Franks, who founded Kibou in 2019, was that same year instrumental in the sale of Redcomb Pubs’ 15-strong pub estate to Young’s.
Sushi Shop to open in Clapham: Sushi Shop, part of the AmRest family, is to further increase its presence in London, with an opening in Clapham. The business, which last year opened its first regional site in the UK, in Brighton, is to take over the former Colette site in Northcote Road, for an opening this spring. The company, which currently operates five sites in London, opened a site in Brighton's North Street next to Tapas Revolution. Last summer, Sushi Shop began a search to secure a number of regional master franchisees across the UK, as part of its expansion plans here. Founded in 1998 by Grégory Marciano and Hervé Louis, Sushi Shop is a European chain of restaurants for premium sushi, sashimi and other Japanese specialties. The brand has established an international network of company-operated and franchised stores across 12 countries, having been part of AmRest, the European multi-brand franchise restaurant group, since 2018.
S4labour appoints Ron Pearson as non-executive chairman: Labour management system S4labour has appointed Ron Pearson to the newly created position of non-executive chairman, with immediate effect. For more than 20 years, Pearson was a partner of private equity firm Bowmark Capital, helping the firm invest in the likes of Las Iguanas, Drake & Morgan and Living Ventures, while also becoming a director of each. Pearson, who has a track record of helping businesses to grow successfully, will be working alongside S4labour’s board to help continue its “strong and sustainable growth”, using his wealth of knowledge and “considerable financial, strategic and operational experience”. Pearson said: “S4labour is a business that offers huge potential for operators and front-line workers in the industry. Since investing in the business, I’ve admired the company’s level of innovation and service delivery and I’m excited to join the team to further fuel its growth.” Alastair Scott, chief executive at S4labour, added: “As a start-up business with more than 50 employees, we need to continue to grow, innovate and lead the industry in customer service and consultancy support. Ron’s support in delivering this will be invaluable.”
Manorview shares record amount of profits with its team: Scottish independent hotel group Manorview has shared £162,000 of profits with its team – the biggest amount to date. A total of 389 employees will benefit from its Heartcount Profit Share Scheme, which sees the business take 10% of net profits and share it equally with qualifying team members. The scheme was introduced by the business, which owns and operates 11 venues, in 2017. Every team member who has worked at Manorview for 12 months or longer, will qualify. Managing director David Tracey said: “We’re on a mission to make hospitality a better industry to be part of – so it felt absolutely right to find a way to share our profits with our incredible team. Without it, we wouldn’t have a high-performing, profitable business. Though we started in 2017, this year is the biggest amount we’ve ever shared – almost double previous years in fact!” The amount each person gets is calculated based on hours worked, instead of on their job role or pay. In 2021, the business removed performance-related bonuses, feeling it was unfair to reward some and not others. To mark the occasion of the profit share, all team members enjoyed an all-expenses paid party at SWG3 in Glasgow with all Manorview venues closing so everyone could attend.
Cineworld's creditors contact rival Vue about possible sale: Cineworld's creditors have contacted its rival Vue about a possible sale as part of efforts to salvage the business. The Mail on Sunday reported advisers have approached Vue and at least 30 other potential buyers since the start of December. Cineworld filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last year. Non-binding bids for Cineworld are expected by Thursday, 16 February. Any sale would include the Cineworld and Picturehouse chains. The industry has been in turmoil since covid forced venues to close for months on end. Last week, Vue said it had successfully refinanced its own business and secured £75m in newly available funds. An industry source said the debt restructuring had put Vue back on a firm footing and left it as one of the “few players in a position to invest in growth”. But the problems facing Cineworld are far greater as it remains burdened by a £4bn debt pile. Any potential deal will also raise inevitable questions about the future of chief executive Mooky Greidinger, recently handed a criminal conviction by a court in Israel. Earlier this month, Cineworld denied it held talks with Odeon owner AMC over the sale of individual sites. Cineworld is understood to be focused on selling the entire business, rather than speaking with buyers about individual assets. The company is still trading on the London Stock Exchange, but its shares have fallen by 90% to less than 4p over the past year. Vue and Cineworld declined to comment.
Leeds cafe-bar concept to open third site: Leeds cafe-bar concept Residence 74 is to open a third site next month, in Headingley. Located in Otley Old Road, it will be the concept’s biggest site yet, set over two floors. Offering 45 covers in the restaurant and 16 in the bar, the first floor will cater for private parties, and on weekends, will host a bottomless brunch. A new small and large plate menu will accompany the breakfast, brunch and dessert offering and “best-in-class” cocktails.
The Rustic Pizza Co secures Rotherham site: South Yorkshire pizza concept, The Rustic Pizza Co, is to open a site in Rotherham. Husband-and-wife team Lee and Sian Ogley have secured the last retail space at Forge Island, in Rotherham town centre, after agreeing a deal with developer Muse. The Rustic Pizza Co was founded in 2017 in Doncaster by the Ogleys, who originally ran a mobile street food business. The duo transformed a passion for pizza into a business venture, delivering their pizzas across their home city as well as serving up a slice of Italy at events and festivals all over the country. The company opened its first permanent outlet at the food court in Doncaster’s Wool Market in 2019. A sister venue, the Rustic Burger Co, has since launched at the Wool Market, with plans to open another Doncaster venue shortly. The Forge Island restaurant will offer both pizza and burger menus, with 70 to 80 in-dining capacity and future plans to include a takeaway offer. Lee Ogley said: “Having grown our business across Doncaster over the last five years, we have been looking to venture into a new town or city for a while and Forge Island ticked all the boxes in terms of being a leisure destination with a focus on attracting local, independent businesses.”
Lake District luxury hotel reports turnover and profits exceeding pre-pandemic levels: Lake District luxury hotel Armathwaite Hall has reported turnover and profits exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The venue, run by the Graves family and located in Keswick, reported turnover of £7,055,818 for the year ending 31 March 2022. This was up both on the 2021 figure of £2,797,928, when covid restrictions caused the venue to be closed for seven months, and the last full pre-pandemic figure of £5,317,049, in the year ending 31 March 2020. Pre-tax profits rose from £523,479 in 2021 to £2,251,024 (2020: £253,835). It received £109,372 in government grants compared with £971,402 in 2021. Repair and maintenance costs rose from £324,000 to £550,000, but the company said it remains in a string financial position with net assets of £12.1m. Armathwaite Hall is owned separately by the Graves family to its Lake District Hotels portfolio, which includes Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa in Derwentwater, Inn on the Lake in Ullswater and Keswick venues Borrowdale Hotel, Inn on the Square, Skiddaw Hotel and Kings Arms Hotel.
West Sussex brewery closes crowdfunding campaign to aid expansion after raising more than £185,000: West Sussex, family-run, brewery Lister’s has closed its crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube to aid its expansion plans after raising more than £185,000. Lister’s, founded by the Waite family at Ford, near Arundel, had been aiming to raise £150,000 and was offering 18.87% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £6.7m. The campaign has closed having raised £185,659 from 373 investors as Lister’s looks to grow its distribution, sales software and sales team, expand its gin and tonic range and develop its crisps and bar snacks. The company said it had a record third quarter in 2022, with sales reaching £100,000, making for an operating profit of £58,000. It now has direct distribution to 40 countries, with its own route to market, and saw sales grow 93% from £104,000 in the first half of 2021 to £202,000 in the first half of 2022. In 2021, Lister’s raised more than £100,000 to expand its sales team and distribution network, increase its brewery capacity and develop anaerobic digestion technology to help power the brewery. This followed a £75,000 fundraise in 2020, as it moved its operations to the Angmering Park Estate.
Hotel operator increases revenue but sells Ruislip property: Pantheon Hotels and Leisure, owned by Shalil Bhattessa and Nor Fazlina Bhattessa, and trading as two hotels – The Barn Hotel, in Ruislip, and the Marygreen Manor Hotel, in Brentwood – more than doubled its turnover for the year ended 31 March 2022, but saw pre-tax losses increase due to the sale of the Ruislip property shortly after the accounts were filed. Revenue for the period was £3,723,712 compared with £1,756,448 in the year to March 2021, but losses before tax increased from £416,613 to £1,986,511 after the inclusion of an impairment loss in the accounts of £2,160,825 relating to the sale of The Barn Hotel in the period after the accounts were filed. The Barn Hotel is clustered around three grade II-listed buildings including Sherley's Farm, which dates from 1528 and is unique in that it is the only complete farmhouse in Greater London and is a three-frame house, whereas most buildings of this age are only two frames. Some of the oak frames used in the building were dragged to the site from the River Thames, having been scavenged from old ships. Company secretary Kathirgamathamby Jegeswaran said in a statement accompanying the accounts: “The company completed the sale of The Barn Hotel after the year end date. The property has been impaired to the value it was sold for in these accounts. Although the hotel was sold it was confirmed the company will still run the hotel for a period of time after sale.”
Waterside Holiday Group rebrands: South west operator Waterside Holiday Group has rebranded to mark its 60th anniversary. The group, which was founded by the Jacobs family in 1963 and operates four holiday parks in the region, has reinvigorated its brand assets and introduced new names for the business and individual parks in Cornwall and Dorset. These include Tregoad Holiday Park, Bowleaze Cove Holiday Park & Spa, Osmington Mills Lodge Park and Chesil Beach Holiday Park. The group itself is now known as Waterside. Chief executive Dave Bennett told Insider Media: “Our rebrand aims to reinforce the connection between our parks and the Waterside brand, providing a mark of assurance that Waterside’s values are captured across every location. What’s more, the rebrand will set us up for future growth as we entice new customers and strengthen existing customer perceptions with our refreshed image. Such growth will allow us to invest further in our parks, our teams, and our local communities in the future.” Sisters Miranda, Olivia and Claire Jacobs have been running the business alongside their mother, Judith, since 2015 continuing the legacy of founders Ralph and Esther Jacobs. The company’s organisational structure and operations remain unchanged.
Burger King plans to open in former Bill’s site in Hertfordshire: Burger King is planning to open in the former Bill’s site in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. The company has applied to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to open in the site at 32 Howardsgate. The Welwyn site was among a raft of restaurants closed by the Richard Caring-backed Bill’s at the end of last year, leaving it with a circa 55-strong estate. This followed the closure of 14 sites at the end of 2021 following a review of its portfolio.
West Midlands hotel group turns profit for first time in five years but turnover not yet back to pre-pandemic levels: West Midlands hotel group Brook Hotels turned a profit for first time in five years in the year ending 25 March 2022, but turnover is not yet back to pre-pandemic levels. The group, which is chaired by Umesh Ummat, and has sites in Chester, Colchester, Oakham and Sutton Coldfield, made a pre-tax profit of £166,739 for the period – the first time it turned a profit since reporting a figure of £1,553,930 for the year ending 30 September 2017. Turnover increased from £1,302,512 in 2021 to £3,204,718 but remain below the figure for the last full year before the pandemic, ended 26 March 2020, which was £6,010,633. It received £71,900 in government grants compared with £556,505 in 2021.
Taco Bell set to open in Middlesbrough: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is set to open a new restaurant in Middlesbrough. The company is launching the drive-thru in the town’s South Bank area just off the A66. The site will also be home to drive-thrus for Burger King and food-to-go operator Greggs, reports The Northern Echo. Taco Bell operates circa 120 restaurants in the UK.
Cheshire hotel sees turnover up 40% against pre-pandemic levels due to ‘staycation’ boom: Cheshire hotel Carden Park saw turnover increase 40.2% on pre-pandemic levels in the year ending 31 March 2022, due mainly to the “staycation” boom from UK holidaymakers. Turnover was up 250% to £19,048,000 on the covid-hit 2021 figure of £5,627,000, and also up significantly on the last full year pre-pandemic, which was £13,647,000 in 2020. The company also returned to profit for the first time in four years, reporting a pre-tax profit of £1,140,000 compared with a loss of £4,698,000 in 2021 and a loss of £1,231,000 in 2020. The average number of employees rose during the year from 174 in 2021 to 225. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Ashley Lewis said: “Turnover was up by 40.2% against the 2020 results, which demonstrates the strength of the return to normal trading achieved during the year. While occupancy increased by 21.6% during the year, it was the 25.2% increase in average room rate it achieved versus last year (and a 60.1% increase over the 2020 average room rate), which actually helped most significantly. This was achieved partly due to governmental help from their reduction in applicable VAT rates but was mainly achieved due to the strength of the well-publicised ‘staycation’ market, which saw very strong levels of leisure business visiting hotel facilities, which have been significantly improved as a result of the new award-winning spa and refurbished internal lounge and dining facilities. As a result, the hotel was able to generate a bottom¬ line profit of more than £1.1m.” Further refurbishment works are taking place to both the reception area and Morgan’s Bar.