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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 1st Feb 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Kempczinski – consumer demand holding up better than we expected, sees improvement in lower-performing UK sites: McDonald’s chief executive Chris Kempczinski has said overall that consumer demand, whether it’s in Europe or the US, is “actually holding up better than what we would have probably expected”. Speaking after the company reported its fourth-quarter like-for-likes were up 12.6% year-on-year, Kempczinski said: “Using the UK as an example, we’ve seen significant levels of food inflation and energy inflation, even though energy maybe hasn’t gotten to the peak of where some were predicting because Europe’s had a milder winter so far. It’s still significantly above where it was 12 to 18 months ago and that impact is creating quite a bit of pressure on margins and cash flow. Our size and scale puts us in a position to provide support where it’s most needed. That’s nothing new for McDonald’s. It occurs from time to time around the world when conditions warrant. It’s just a little bit more significant now due to the broader nature and scale of some of those short-term impacts that we’re seeing. Overall, consumer [demand], whether it’s in Europe or the US, is actually holding up better than what we would have probably expected or maybe what I would have expected a year or six months ago. The environment is going to continue to be challenging. Certainly, consumer sentiment out there remains depressed in many markets. But we’re not seeing it right now. I think it goes back to what I said previously, we have to be very judicious. And our franchisees have been great about the pace of pricing, where we’re just making sure that we're keeping the customer engaged and coming into our restaurants as we're working through the menu pricing. And we’re seeing flow through on pricing in line with our historical numbers. So we’re not seeing any big resistance right now.” In 2022, the company said it re-engaged most of its system on maintaining operational excellence in its restaurants through its performance and customer excellence (PACE) programme. Kempczinski said: “Restarting PACE in 2022 led to strong operational improvements in several key markets as a result of a more dedicated consulting and coaching time to support lower performing restaurants. For example, the UK saw improved customer satisfaction, speed of service and overall experience for these restaurants. PACE clearly drives operational improvements, which provides a better customer experience that in turn drives business performance.”
 

Industry News:

Two days to go before the next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details of 267 new sites, 12,700-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 267 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 growing restaurant and bar brands, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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.
 
Hospitality energy bills to double as support falls away: Sector businesses expect a 101% increase in energy bills this quarter, compared with the same period last year, even before the support ends, according to new research. The survey – from the joint first quarter hospitality members survey by UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and Hospitality Ulster – also bolsters concerns raised by the sector about the behaviour of energy suppliers inflating quotes, without justification, with 56% reporting increased standing charges. The hike in bills is significantly affecting trading in the sector, with 42% of businesses reducing opening hours per day and 34% reducing the amount of days they open per week. The figures were raised directly with politicians as UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls gave evidence to a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee session on energy price support. In a joint statement, the organisations said: “Hospitality businesses and representatives have consistently warned the exclusion of the sector from additional energy support means venues are facing unsustainable hikes in their energy bills. These survey results reinforce those warnings, demonstrating the extent of this energy devastation on venues with bills set to double as a result of support significantly reducing. Arriving on top of the 101% increase compared with this time last year, the hit to the sector could not come at a worse time. Despite continually raising the alarm over energy suppliers’ unscrupulous behaviour during this crisis, we continue to see these companies relentlessly pursue excess profits at the expense of hard-working businesses and undermining the government’s significant investment. November demonstrated the role hospitality can play in delivering growth, even during tough times, but we need to see this recognised by government action; by reigning in energy suppliers and their poor conduct and unlocking hospitality’s potential in the spring Budget.”
 
Nicholls – today’s day of strikes set to cost hospitality £100m in sales, government must ‘commit to sector’ following IMF statement: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has said today’s (Wednesday, 1 February) day of strikes is set to cost hospitality £100m in sales. Half a million workers, including train drivers, teachers and civil servants, are set to strike in what will be the biggest planned industrial action since 2011. Nicholls told City AM: “The situation is entirely avoidable but provides yet another pressure for a sector contending with soaring energy costs, workforce challenges and dampening consumer confidence. Hospitality continues to suffer as collateral damage as a result of this dispute, so it’s vital all parties reach an agreement as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary damage to businesses at this increasingly challenging time.” More rail strikes are set to follow on Friday (3 February). Meanwhile, Nicholls has also called on the government to allow an extension of repayments to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) by ten years, and to allow business greater flexibility on when tax bills are paid. She was speaking following the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) announcement it expects the UK’s to be the only major economy to shrink in 2023 – contracting by 0.6%. Nicholls said: “The IMF’s growth’s forecast is a frustrating reflection of the economic challenges that lie ahead for the country. Hospitality has proven it can generate rapid economic growth with the right support and investment, which I’d urge the government to now commit to the sector. We saw this potential realised in November, where the sector was pinpointed as the main reason for unexpected economic growth. However, hospitality businesses in the UK find themselves hamstrung by loans they took out during the pandemic, unlike many of our European counterparts that benefited from grants. Implementing the right measures now can see the sector survive current challenges and also allow it to thrive into the future; delivering much-needed economic growth and job opportunities.”
 
Insolvencies hit highest number since financial crisis: The dam has burst on insolvencies, experts have warned, after the highest number of companies since the financial crisis failed last year. The Telegraph reported interest rates, energy prices and pandemic loans becoming due are pulling the rug from under thousands of firms that are unable to pay their debts, industry leaders said. Some 22,109 companies became insolvent in 2022 in England and Wales, meaning they are on the brink of going under. This is the highest figure since 2009, government figures show. Christina Fitzgerald, president of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, said after two years of government support suppressing the numbers, “2022 was the year the insolvency dam burst”. Many businesses are for the first time experiencing a “trilemma” of supply chain pressures, inflation and high energy prices, according to Samantha Keen of EY-Parthenon and president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association. She said: “This stress is now deepening and spreading to all sectors of the economy as falling confidence affects investment decisions, contract renewals and access to credit.” The figures also revealed the number of firms opting voluntarily to be wound up reached its highest level since records began in 1960. The number of insolvencies peaked in the final three months of the year at 5,938 as inflation, rising borrowing costs and the cost of living crisis intensified.
 
Chaiiwala launches UK’s first Indian drive-thru: Street food cafe franchise Chaiiwala has opened the first Indian drive-thru in the UK. The site in Bolton, Greater Manchester, has been opened in partnership with the EG Group and serves an array of street food, hot and cold chai drinks and an all-day breakfast. After starting out serving cups of chaii on the streets of Delhi in 1927, the franchise opened its first site in Leicester in 2016 and is now looking for further possible destinations for a Chaiiwala drive-thru. Co-founder Sohail Ali told The Bolton News: “This is exciting news for Bolton and the UK in general. This is a new experience for our valued customers and the first time they can experience our Indian street food in a drive-thru setting. Using this blueprint we are now actively searching for new drive-thru locations across the UK that will replicate the Bolton store model. Our drive-thru concept will allow customers to experience our products in a faster format while also having the ability to visit the store.” Last September, Propel reported the circa 70-strong Chaiiwala was planning to expand to 500 UK outlets as part of its ambitious growth plans. Ali will be speaking at the first Propel Multi-Club Conference this year, which takes place on Thursday, 23 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London. Ali will discuss the concept's creation, its expansion in the UK and internationally, the size of the opportunity and its move into the drive-thru category. Operators can book up to three free places. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to book your places.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a global brand with multiple operations worldwide that is looking for a HR director for one of its London hotels. This will be for a fixed-term contract. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be leading the HR department, including talent acquisition, learning and development, employee engagement, compensation and benefits, talent management and financial planning of the department. The role will also involve developing and implementing HR initiatives, contributing to long-term goals around business and people development, including succession planning, raising line manager capability.” The salary is up to £70,000 (pro rata) and the position is based in central London. For more information, email lara@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Hickory’s like-for-likes consistently more than 30% higher than pre-covid levels: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s Smokehouse, which was acquired by Greene King in October, has reported on a like-for-like basis, the business was consistently more than 30% higher in its last financial year than pre-covid levels. The 17-strong company reported turnover in the year to 30 April 2022 of £50,842,897 (2021: £19,485,062), with Ebitda of £9,271,000 (2021: £2,542,000) and a pre-tax profit of £5,431,860 (2021: pre-tax loss of £458,987). The business said: “The directors are satisfied with the results for the year. The results for the year reflect a very strong post covid performance, which has continued beyond the year end. On a like-for-like basis, the business is consistently more than 30% higher than its pre covid levels. The group has repaired its balance sheet from the damage done by the lockdowns and at year end has net bank debt of just £1.5m with Ebitda in the financial year of £8.65m. The group continues to generate cash to further fund the expansion of the business.” Propel revealed earlier this month that Greene King, led by Nick Mackenzie, had lined up the first conversion site to the Hickory’s Smokehouse brand. The High Park Pub & Grill in Bradley Road, Huddersfield, has been chosen to become the 18th site under the Hickory’s brand. Greene King acquired Hickory’s, which had been backed by private equity firm Piper, for an undisclosed sum. It said at the time that it saw the potential to grow Hickory’s into a national dining brand and the investment underpinned the company’s strategy of growing its reach through “compelling brands and unlocking value by making the most of each of its sites”.
 
Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group eyes further expansion in England as it reports surge in turnover and profit: Scottish restaurant operator Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group (DRG) is eyeing further expansion in England as it reported a surge in turnover and profit. The business, which said it is trading “slightly ahead of budget but offset by increased costs”, said it has several potential sites under consideration on the back of an “extremely strong” opening for its debut English site – Café Andaluz in Newcastle. It comes as the DRG reported turnover jumped to £44,380,125 for the year ending 1 May 2022, compared with £11,478,272 the year before. The group, which is owned by Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta and employs around 900 staff, saw pre-tax profit rise to £7,953,974 from £1,876,366 the year before. Gizzi told The Herald: “Thanks to our robust financial and operational app roach, married to the amazing resilience of our colleagues, we managed to emerge from the pandemic and resume serving our customers quickly. However, many good businesses have not been as fortunate and I suspect that we’ve not seen the end of the fallout in the hospitality industry. There are still major challenges on the horizon, particularly with significant inflationary pressures on wages, utilities, and ingredients, many of which are imported. Like the rest of the sector, we have been hit hard by the upsurge in costs across the board, but we feel we are managing those as well as anyone and are quietly confident about future performance.” Conetta said: “The successful formula we have developed over many years in Scotland has proved just as popular with diners south of the border and our Newcastle restaurant has been a very welcome success, despite the hangover from covid. We’re currently looking at a number of other sites in England.” The DRG has three Di Maggio’s sites, six Café Andaluz venues, three Amarone restaurants and three food-court outlets. Its other restaurants include Cadiz in Edinburgh, and Barolo, Anchorline, Atlantic Brasserie and The Citizen in Glasgow.
 
Taster partners with Urban Kitchen to expand to the Netherlands, more locations planned: Delivery-only kitchen concept Taster, which was founded by early Deliveroo executive Anton Soulier, has expanded to the Netherlands through a partnership with Urban Kitchens, with more locations in the country planned. It has launched its Korean-inspired fried chicken brand, Out Fry, in Amsterdam, available on UberEats and via click and collect from Urban Kitchen, which runs its own range of digitally native restaurant brands. Out Fry, which is already the third largest fried chicken brand on delivery platforms in France, offers Korean-inspired gochujang and yangnyeom wings, crispy chicken buckets and a selection of burgers known for their zingy flavours, as well as vegetarian and vegan options. Further locations are planned for Out Fry and more of Taster’s brands across the Netherlands, including Appeldorn, Den Haag, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Soulier said: “We’re excited by the booming delivery scene in the Netherlands, and we’re having positive conversations with kitchen owners across multiple cities who are excited about food designed specifically for delivery. The Netherlands is a key focus for us in 2023 and we want to expand rapidly.” Urban Kitchen founder Sebastiaan Maliepaard added: “We know the power of dynamic brands that appeal to foodies and know the food delivery scene in the Netherlands is booming, so we’re keen to partner with companies like Taster who share the same vision as our team.” Taster’s brands are already available in more than 80 cities across Europe. In the UK, Taster last year launched in Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham, adding to kitchen partners it already had in London, Brighton and Reading. Last November, it partnered with Jamie Oliver for the roll out of his new pasta delivery concept, Pasta Dreams.
 
Danish espresso bar concept Hagen secures Hampstead site: Danish espresso bar concept Hagen is expanding in London, with an opening in Hampstead. Hagen has acquired the ex-Bread Ahead bakery site at 70 Hampstead High Street in an off-market deal. It will become an eighth site in the capital for Hagen, which also operates sites in Chelsea, Mayfair, Belgravia, Marylebone, South Kensington and Notting Hill. Born out of Copenhagen and founded in London, Hagen focuses on creating hygge spaces and serving premium specialty coffee in London’s affluent locations. The business, which is led by founder Tim Schroeder, opened its latest site on the former Anya Hindmarch store in Ledbury Road, last summer. It is understood to be looking at further site opportunities in the capital for openings this year. Schroeder said: “Each one of our sites are carefully chosen and we are very selective with the landlords we partner with.” George Collison, of Savills, acts for Hagen.
 
Snowfox Group rolls out new Snowfruit franchise to more than 450 US stores: Snowfox Group – the YO!, Bento, Panku and Taiko brands operator – has rolled out its new Snowfruit franchise to more than 450 stores across 12 states in the US. Snowfruit is a franchised business that provides freshly cut fruit to customers. The fruit is cut and packaged every day in the store. The company told Propel: “Following on from Snowfox’s 17-year long established and trusted relationship with Kroger Supermarkets in the USA, where Snowfox currently has more than 1,100 franchised sushi kiosks, last year an opportunity arose – which is where Snowfruit began. As customers are increasingly seeking out fresh and convenient options of the highest quality, Snowfruit has been successful in these initial stages. The business has grown quickly and is now operating in more than 450 stores in 12 different states in the USA. There is an exciting roll out plan for 2023, while a trial in vegetables has also been completed, and to be added to the offer in the coming months.” Emma Deabill, previous managing director of YO! Restaurants and Snowfox Group group business development director, has taken up the new role of vice-president of Snowfruit. The Richard Hodgson-led Snowfox plans to double its estate of kiosks in UK supermarkets this year, with the opening of another 200 sites. The business is also exploring opportunities to franchise its kiosk formats and to open further YO! restaurants. Speaking at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022 last November, Christian Haas, managing director UK & Ireland at YO!, revealed the business opened nearly 200 sites in 2022 with Asda and Tesco. 

Los Mochis owners acquire Sale e Pepe in London’s Knightsbridge: The Thesleff Group, which operates Baja-Nihon restaurant Los Mochis and cocktail bar Viajante87 in London, has acquired iconic Knightsbridge Italian restaurant Sale e Pepe. The acquisition includes the leasehold of the restaurant, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and the existing brand. Located behind Sloane Street, Sale e Pepe, started out of a shopfront on Pavilion Road in 1974 and was further extended in 1985 before eventually becoming a stalwart of the London dining scene, attracting celebrities including Rod Stewart, Sir Roger Moore, Priscilla Presley and Ringo Starr. The Thesleff Group will be bringing Sale e Pepe back to its former glory, offering classics such as Linguine all’Aragosta (linguine with lobster, cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic) and Sogliola alla Mugnaia (Dover sole with olive oil, lemon and herbs) alongside new dishes. Sale e Pepe’s original manager, Toni Corricelli, said: “Since 1974 it has been an honour and a pleasure to be of service during my time at Sale e Pepe. It took me a while to find the right person to pass the baton onto, and I believe Markus and the Thesleff Group are the best choice to carry on its tradition with the same enthusiasm and dedication.” Thesleff Group founder Markus Thesleff added: “We are really excited and inspired to be the new custodians of Sale e Pepe, one of the most iconic restaurants in London. It’s a very rare opportunity to be able to acquire such a rich legacy steeped in almost 50 years of history, and we are really proud that Toni has trusted us with this iconic brand and institution.” The Thesleff Group, which was founded in 2019, opened Viajante87 earlier this month. It is set to open its second Los Mochis site, the 14,000 square-foot flagship Los Mochis City in Broadgate Circle, on the rooftop of 100 Liverpool Street, this autumn. 
 
Travelodge reports strong trading with revenue and Ebitda above pre-pandemic levels, CVA comes to end: Travelodge has reported strong trading, with revenue and Ebitda above pre-pandemic levels, while its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) has been fully implemented and come to an end. The company reported revenue of £910m for the year ending 31 December 2022, up 25% from 2021 (£559.8m) and above the last full year before the pandemic (2019: £727.9m). Adjusted Ebitda of between £210m and £215m was also up both on 2021 (£81.1m) and 2019 (£129.1m). This trend has continued into 2023, with a strong trading performance in the first three weeks of January seeing revenue approximately 35% ahead of 2019 levels. The company said it had cash of £153.5m at the year end. Further de-leveraging came with the £15.8m open market repurchase of floating rates notes at a small discount to par. This was in addition to more than £100m of de-leveraging in 2022. As well as the company’s CVA coming to an end this month, its previously announced LXI REIT regear was completed this week. The company said: “The strong leisure and ‘blue collar’ business demand has continued in the first weeks of 2023 as customers continue to prioritise travel and seek out value in tough economic times. Corporate midweek demand, particularly in central London, continues to recover albeit more gradually. While forward booking patterns are very positive, they remain predominantly short lead, so we still have very limited forward visibility.” It said the CVA included a clause whereby if the cumulative Ebitda from 2020 to 2022 is more than £200m, two-thirds of the cumulative profit in excess of this is payable to landlords. “Based on the expected Ebitda range, reflecting Travelodge’s excellent 2022 trading performance, we now expect to make a one-off payment under this clause,” the company said. It added the lease regear is inserting caps and collars of 4% per annum and 1% per annum respectively into 97 of the 122 leases that were previously uncapped and uncollared Retail Price Index rent reviews, with the remainder also expected to have caps and collars inserted, subject to landlord agreement. Travelodge has also signed an agreement for a new hotel in Madrid, opening in the first half of 2023, which will be its first new opening in Spain for ten years. 
 
AG Barr expects FY profits ‘slightly ahead’ of expectations: Drinks producer AG Barr, the owner of Irn-Bru, Rubicon and Funkin, has said it expects to deliver full-year profit “slightly ahead” of current market expectations following a strong second-half sales performance. In an update for the year to 29 January 2023, the company said group revenues rose around 17% from the prior year to £315m. It noted the previous year included an extra week of trading, while revenue for 2023 was strengthened by an eight-week contribution from the Boost brand, which it bought in December, and a full year of Moma. On a like-for-like basis, revenues are expected to have increased 15%. AG Barr said all four business units – Barr Soft Drinks, Boost, Funkin and Moma – contributed to the overall “strong” revenue performance. The company stated: “As anticipated, the inflationary backdrop across the UK continued across the second half of our financial year. We have remained focused on supporting our employees, customers and consumers alongside taking positive action to mitigate the inflationary cost pressures. We are pleased to confirm we anticipate delivering a full-year profit performance ahead of the prior year, and slightly ahead of current market expectations.” Looking ahead, the company said it expects further revenue growth across the group but warned over continued high inflation and the planned introduction of a deposit return scheme (DRS) in Scotland in August, “both of which have the potential to impact consumer behaviour”. “Our internal implementation planning for DRS is well advanced and we believe our strong brand portfolio and ongoing actions to mitigate inflation will support the delivery of our growth ambitions,” it said.
 
East Anglia operators double up with launch of Italian restaurant and cocktail bar: East Anglia operators Carlos Magalhaes and Fabio Rodrigues have doubled up with the launch of an Italian restaurant and cocktail bar in Norwich. The duo, who have operated Il Salvadore in Brandon since 2019, have now opened Silhouette in Norwich’s Castle Quarter. They have taken 3,462 square feet of space within the Timberhill Terrace area of the leisure destination, offering locally sourced meat, baked pasta dishes and fresh fish. Mark Harvey, executive director and head of asset management at Castle Quarter project managers RivingtonHark, said: “Silhouette is a fantastic addition to Castle Quarter. Carlos and Fabio have a fantastic restaurant track record, and we look forward to Silhouette becoming one of the pillars of Norwich’s growing dining scene.” RivingtonHark was advised by Jamieson Mills and Roche.
 
Turkish chef and restaurateur makes UK debut: Turkish chef and restaurateur Kemal Demirasal has made his UK debut with The Counter, a contemporary ocakbasi restaurant in London’s Notting Hill. The 45-cover restaurant and bar, showcasing traditional south eastern Anatolian cooking styles mixed with Demirasal’s own take on his native cuisine, has opened in Golborne Road. Demirasal uses a charcoal-fired mangal oven to creates twists on classic dishes and “instil a new, elevated understanding of traditional ocakbasi dining in the UK”. Demirasal, a seven-time national windsurfing champion in Turkey, opened his first restaurant, Barbun in Alacati, in 2009 following the end of his sporting career. In 2013, he followed that with Alancha in Istanbul, which made it on to Discovery’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants series. He has also founded several restaurant concepts including modern Aegean-Greek restaurant YEK, gastropub Atelier Malt and seafood grill Bluefin, and presents a gastronomy series on Turkish national TV. His menu at The Counter focuses on the kebab traditions of Turkish ocakbasi restaurants, with the drinks offering includes an extensive selection of wine from Turkey and the surrounding region, alongside rakis (a popular Turkish spirit) and cocktails.
 
Scottish hotel and leisure resort sees profits soar as turnover exceeds pre-pandemic levels, future development plans on hold: Scottish hotel and leisure resort Auchrannie saw its profits soar as turnover exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the year ending 31 March 2022. The company, which operates the four-star resort on the Isle of Arran, reported a pre-tax profit of £1,580,940 compared with £69,415 in 2021, and a loss of £404,490 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 March 2020. Turnover rose from £3,348,717 in 2021 to £9,370,085, also exceeding the last pre-pandemic figure of £7,863,794 in 2020. The company received £139,925 in government grants compared with £2,547,238 in 2021. Dividends of £75,000 were paid (2021: £75,000). In her statement accompanying the accounts, director Linda May Johnston said: “The company has a strong working relationship with its existing customers and suppliers and has a healthy forecast of occupancy for the next 12 months. The company continues to identify future development opportunities and a number are being assessed. However, in the current economic climate, they will not be progressed beyond the planning stage until staffing shortages in the industry ease, ferry reliability improves and the economic outlook is better.”
 
The Hummingbird Bakery to reopen original Notting Hill site this month: US-style cupcake concept The Hummingbird Bakery will reopen its original Notting Hill site this month following a refurbishment. The Portobello Road bakery, the first opened by The Hummingbird Bakery when it launched in 2004, will reopen just in time for Valentine’s Day and feature a customisation station. As well as signature cheesecakes, traditional American pies, birthday cakes, brownies and cookies, there will be new cupcakes exclusive to Portobello Road. Branch manager Michael Bones said: “All of us at The Hummingbird Bakery Notting Hill are excited to welcome our guests back to our newly renovated store. We have put a lot of thought into the new design of the bakery and have created some new Notting Hill themed treats to wow our guests.” The Hummingbird Bakery has five sites in London, with plans to open more in 2023, as previously reported. Its Spitalfields bakery will be the next to receive the makeover treatment and will soon close for renovation works.
 
Durham Distillery to open to visitors, offering gin-making classes, tours and event hosting: Durham Distillery is set to open to visitors for the first time, offering gin-making classes, tours and event hosting. Guests will be able to pick and mix their own botanicals to make their own bespoke gin, and there will also be cocktail making masterclasses. It will also open up for larger group events, as well as offering a 90-minute distillery tour providing an insight into the making of Durham Gin. Durham Distillery was founded in 2014 by local-born brothers, Jon and Iain Chadwick, following a journey Jon, a former NHS chief executive, took across America’s East Coast. Having fallen in love with the micro-distillery culture he found in the US, he came home to found Durham’s first, and so far, only distillery. He said: “With almost a decade of industry experience under our belts, the time has come to step the brand on and open our beautiful new distillery to the public. I genuinely believe a positive change is in the air as far as Durham’s leisure and nightlife scene is concerned, and we’re very much part of that. We can’t wait to welcome our first visitors this spring, and we’re also excited to be getting closer to launching our own brand of rye whiskey, yet another first in our city.”

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