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Tue 21st Feb 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wilks – Dublin will allow us to test the water with overseas expansion without rushing into any decisions, six more Lane7s to come this year: Lane7 founder Tim Wilks has told Propel that the boutique bowling concept’s European debut later this year will allow it to test the water with overseas expansion without rushing into any decisions. Wilks is hoping its central Dublin site, the company’s first outside the UK, will be open by mid-summer. He said: “We have a very clear strategy, and part of that is we don’t want to over-expose the brand, so we won’t be growing to a number for the sake of it and going into secondary locations. We’re working towards a golden number of UK sites, and once we obtain that, if we didn’t want to over-expose the brand we’d have to look further afield. Dublin is comfortable because we’re culturally aligned, it’s a really nice way to get a feel for what it might be like when we’ve reached what we feel is our maximum number on the mainland. We’re still working on that golden number, but we’re very reluctant to launch in haste because it’s not automatic that you’ll be successful, you have to earn the right to say that number. We find sites up to two years before they trade, that’s why the timing is right with Dublin as it allows us to have a look and sets us on that path nicely without having to rush into any decisions. Although culturally we’re very similar, it’s new territory from a currency and taxation point of view. It’s not so much building the site or how it will trade, but more setting up shop in a new type of market and landing it comfortably.” The business opened its 11th site on Friday (17 February), in Bath, and Wilks said he plans to have 17 open by the end of what he said will be “a very big year”. He hopes the company’s biggest site yet, in Birmingham, will be open by late summer, with its debut London site following at the back end of the year. “Birmingham’s going to be just shy of 30,000 square feet,” he said. “It’s going to be a fantastic site with a rooftop terrace overlooking the city, which is something we don’t have in our estate, so we’re hoping to be open in time to catch some of the late summer weather on that terrace. London has a few hurdles to jump in terms of planning and licenses, but nothing we feel will be obstructive or difficult.” Sites in Nottingham, Cardiff, York, Belfast and Altrincham are also planned. Wilks called Lane7’s current pipeline “a natural acceleration curve” which has been “a long time in the making” but added: “We want quality over quantity and the right sites to accelerate the business, with the right team in place. I’m very much a realist – there’s more competition and we’ve got to be careful. The market is bubbling along nicely but I’m aware there’s a limitation of what the market requires, it’s not the same as food and drink. For me, we’re very much focused on quality, creative integrity and giving the customer a fantastic experience, because there’s a very wide range of budgets across the market. Some operators are spending modest sums and some are setting eye-watering budgets.”

Industry News:

Peter Marks to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Peter Marks, chairman of Rekom UK, the UK’s largest nightclub operator, will be among the speakers at the first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023. The conference takes place on Thursday, 23 March, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “challenges and opportunities”. Marks will talk to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about the evolution of the business, its expansion plans in the UK and internationally, and what the impact of the past three years has had on the late-night sector. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing

Propel Premium subscribers to receive three updated databases in a week: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive three updated databases in the space of a week. The next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies will be released on Monday, 27 February, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will feature 21 new multi-site companies, taking the total to 2,789. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. Meanwhile, the next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will be sent to Premium subscribers next Tuesday (28 February). It is the first database where full profiles of 650 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators are available in one place. There are 46 updated entries, while 16 new companies have been added. 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 merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 3 March, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 5,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. 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 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 our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Hospitality leaders’ confidence rises but soaring costs threaten fragile businesses: Leaders of Britain’s managed hospitality groups remain cautiously optimistic about the future despite spiralling costs, the 2023 Business Leaders’ Survey from CGA by NielsenIQ and Fourth reveals. The poll of leaders shows nearly half (47%) feel confident about prospects for their business over the next 12 months, which is a strong recovery from 29% in the previous survey three months ago. Despite this rise, 20% admitted to feeling pessimistic. Three in ten feel confident about the eating and drinking out market in general. This is significantly higher than the 8% recorded in the previous survey, but still some way off the 65% recorded in January 2022. More than four in five (84%) say their business operated at a profit last year, and nearly half (51%) were more profitable than in 2021. However, 14% say their business is at risk of failure in 2023. Nearly all leaders say they have experienced higher costs in food and drink (96%), energy (91%) and front-of-house labour (91%), which have led to average increases of 12% and 10% in food and drink menu prices respectively in the last 12 months. Responding to the survey, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The optimistic attitude on show from leaders in hospitality demonstrates the resilience and positivity of our sector, even in the face of enormous challenges. With the cost of doing business crisis showing no signs of slowing down, there is urgent action needed to tackle the root causes of inflation and clear support among leaders for UKHospitality’s asks of the government in the Budget. If the chancellor acts to extend more energy support, reform the broken business rates system and reduce the sector’s rate of VAT, the government can harness the spirit of hospitality businesses to see off current challenges, drive economic growth and lift the nation’s economy.” 

Company News:

Electric Gamebox plans 18 new sites in the UK by the end of next year: Electric Gamebox, the London-based gaming platform from Immersive Gamebox, is planning to open a further 18 sites in the UK by the end of next year, Propel understands. The company, which includes Imbiba amongst its backers, currently operates five sites in the UK, including in London’s Southbank and Wandsworth. It has lined up an opening in Principal Place, Worship Street, in Shoreditch, for its next opening in the capital. It also has openings in Bristol, Liverpool, Bluewater and Birmingham lined up for this year, while locations for 2024 include Canary Wharf, King’s Cross, Reading, Oxford and Milton Keynes. It also plans to open its first site in Ireland this year, in Dublin, with an opening in Cork set to follow next year. First launched in 2019, Immersive Gamebox was co-founded by Will Dean, its chief executive, and David Spindler, who serves as the company’s chief financial officer. Dean was the founder and former chief executive of endurance event Tough Mudder. The gaming platform has since expanded to 16 locations across Europe and the US, including London, New York and Berlin. Last year, it announced plans to open 250 locations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East over the next three years. It said it had inked nearly £80m worth of franchise deals over the next three years. Last summer, it also appointed a new chief operating officer in Lisa Paton, the former Pizza Hut and BrewDog executive. In November, it raised $20m in funding for its game room product and a new technology patent, with Harlan Capital providing the funds via a debt financing. Spindler said at the time: “When we started Immersive Gamebox, we set out to create a unique technology-driven experience that would bring people together through shared play. The debt financing from Harlan Capital will enable us to open many more venues globally, accelerating our already-rapid growth and bringing the Immersive Gamebox experience to millions of players.”

The Coconut Tree preparing franchise model for ‘fast-tracked’ overseas expansion, focusing on Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan street food operator The Coconut Tree is preparing a franchise model to “fast-track” its overseas expansion, focusing on Sri Lanka, the country which inspired its offering. The nine-strong brand was founded in 2016 by five Sri Lankan friends living in Cheltenham – Mithra Fernando, Rashinthe Rodrigo, Dhanushka Fernando, Praveen Thangiah and Shamil Fernando. “My vision for the business is a sustained strategic expansion across the UK and other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka,” finance director Mithra Fernando told Echelon. “It (Sri Lanka) is a grand return home for us on our way to the world. A British brand selling Sri Lankan food trying to set up in Germany, for instance, will not have much authenticity. Plus, we want to bring back what we learnt to Sri Lanka and use our success to create value in Sri Lanka. As it is, we work with local producers in Sri Lanka, giving them direct access to the UK and a stream of export revenue. We want to be able to further expand opportunities for local producers. We also want to bring our signature The Coconut Tree experience to Sri Lanka. We’ve created a £10m business with a team of 300 people, literally out of nothing and in a very short period. We want to bring that expertise to Sri Lanka, share our love for Sri Lankan food with Sri Lankans and also base a significant portion of our business out of Sri Lanka. That will allow us to create value in many ways. Presently, we are working on a franchising model of operation and preparing the legal framework for this. It will also help us to fast-track our ambitions of global expansion.” Last month, Propel reported that The Coconut Tree is planning six UK openings in 2023, as well as extending its offering with merchandise and developing its loyalty strategies. Last summer, former Po Na Na managing director Anna Garrod stepped down as The Coconut Tree’s brands director to concentrate on projects with her consultancy business, Anna Garrod8 Consultancy.

Big Easy appoints Cyrus Assibey as new finance director: Big Easy, the London-based barbecue concept, has appointed Cyrus Assibey, formerly of Jollibee Europe, as its new finance director, Propel has learned. Assibey joins the Paul Corrett-founded business after a year and a half as head of finance at Jollibee Europe. Prior to that, he spent seven years at Big Easy as its financial controller. He has also had stints at The Zetter Hotel and Park Inn by Radisson. He rejoins Big Easy as it gears up to make its international debut, in Germany. It will open, alongside The Alchemist, in the redeveloped Potsdamer Platz scheme in Berlin, in partnership with Brookfield Properties, later this spring. The Big Easy currently operates five sites in the UK, four in London, and a 6,100 square-foot site in the Bluewater shopping scheme, Kent.

Pret to introduce new range of iced drinks, to be included as part of coffee subscription: Pret A Manger is to unveil a new iced drinks range – its biggest drinks innovation in more than five years – in April. The move will see the brand expand its range of iced coffees and teas, replacing its current range of frappes and smoothies. The full range will be available in more than 90% of shops and included as part of the brand’s coffee subscription. To get shops ready for the new range, Pret is beginning to install new ice machines in its UK shops, removing blenders to make way for them. Smoothies and frappes will still be available in select shops until 29 May. A Pret spokesperson said: “We know Pret customers are huge fans of iced coffees and drinks, so over the next few months we’ll be increasing their availability across more Pret locations, with new ice machines installed across our shops. We will also be replacing our current range of frappes and smoothies from April and bringing in a bigger range of iced drinks to choose from. Once the changes are complete, iced drinks will be available in more than 90% of Pret shops, so that even more of our customers can enjoy our full range of barista-prepared drinks.”

Wendy’s UK franchisee plans to open first southern site for its fish and chips concept: Papas Hospitality Group, which Propel revealed last year is one of the first franchisees of Wendy’s in the UK, is planning to open a first southern site for its fish and chips concept. The company, which operates ten Papas Fish & Chips sites in the north of England, has submitted plans to open a fish and chip restaurant, with a roof top terrace and takeaway, on a vacant section of the Royal Victoria Pavilion site on Ramsgate seafront. It aims to take over the shell to create a new outlet at the grade II-listed building, alongside a JD Wetherspoon pub, reports The Isle of Thanet News. JD Wetherspoon opened its pub at the site, which formerly housed a casino and nightclub, in August 2017 following a £5m restoration project. It had lay empty since 2008, when Rank Leisure casino moved to Westwood Cross, and in 2011, serious damage was caused by a fire. Papas is understood to be is keen to develop its fish and chips chain in the south of the country. Propel revealed in November that the group had set up a new company, Square Burger Ltd, to oversee its partnership with Wendy’s. It opened its first site under the partnership the following month, in Sheffield, and has lined up a further opening, in Lincoln.

Popeyes UK strengthens London openings pipeline: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is set to strengthen its pipeline of openings in the capital, with sites lined up in Kilburn and Woolwich. The company, which last week confirmed the locations of the next seven openings in the UK, including its first two drive-thrus, is set to open in Powis Street, Woolwich, and at 122 Kilburn High Road. At the same time, it has applied to open a further drive-thru site on the former Buddies Diner unit in Sixfields, Northampton. Last week, the company, which expects to open 20 sites in the UK this year, confirmed openings in Cambridge, Reading, Cardiff, Plymouth, Richmond, Rotherham and Glasgow’s Barrhead, with the latter two set to be drive-thrus. The brand’s first restaurant opening of 2023 took place last week, in Cambridge, which will be followed by a site in Reading, on Thursday, 23 February. With 18 locations open, Popeyes UK said the pace of its openings is seeing the chain expand across the UK at a “faster rate than comparators who have also recently landed from across the pond”.

Urban Pubs & Bars gears up double reopening: London operator Urban Pubs & Bars is to reopen two sites this week, one each from the former ZX Ventures and Barworks estates, after refurbishments. The circa 40-strong business, which is led by Malcolm Heap and Nick Pring, will reopen the Commercial Tavern on Commercial Street, Shoreditch, which was one of the 13 sites the business acquired from Barworks in November 2021. Also this week, it will reopen the Queens Head on Shoreditch High Street. Last October, the business took its estate to 40 sites with the acquisition of three pubs from ZX Ventures, the innovation incubator within AB InBev, for an undisclosed sum. The business acquired the Queens Head (formerly the Goose Island site in Shoreditch), the Monarchy in Camden (where Camden Town brewery began its journey as a small start-up) and The Horseshoe in Hampstead. Last week, it further increased its presence in the capital after securing a site from Albion & East, the Imbiba-backed London bar group, in Crouch End. It acquired the Allora Hall site in Park Road and reopened it as The Fox at Crouch End – a “modern British pub and kitchen serving a range of premium craft beer alongside quality British and international food”.

Stack & Still to make transport hub debut at Glasgow airport: Scottish pancake house brand Stack & Still is to make its transport hub debut later this spring, with an opening at Glasgow airport. The Glasgow-headquartered company, which serves in excess of a million pancakes per annum, will open its latest venture airside at the airport in May. The company said it will create an “exciting boutique concept” in the heart of the departure area. It said: “The concept takes the best of Stack & Still's pancake offering and will introduce bespoke packaging for people to eat at the dedicated seating area or grab and go for an onward flight.” It will mirror the company’s highly successful operation at Edinburgh’s Bonnie & Wild Scottish Marketplace, in the St James Quarter. The firm’s ninth and newest branch follows the brand’s expansion south of the border after its 225-seater restaurant, just off London’s Leicester Square, opened just in time for Christmas 2022. Stack & Still, which was launched in 2018 by Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie, aims to double in size during the next two years, including more locations in London. Reynolds, chief executive at Stack & Still, said: “This will be our first travel operator partnership, and we’re actively exploring more opportunities across the UK as part of our expansion plans. Given such a wide range of flight times, our Glasgow airport branch will introduce travellers to the delights of pancakes from 4am right through to the evening, setting them up perfectly for their onward journey.” Craig Norton, retail account manager at Glasgow airport, added: “It is fitting that Glasgow is Stack & Still’s first airport-based pancake house to open, given the brand’s links with the city. I’m sure the addition of this latest food and drink offering at the airport will be a huge hit with our passengers.” Last November, Reynolds told Propel the business was looking at “four or five” openings in 2023, one or two of which would be in London.

Virtual reality arcade concept DNA VR to make regional debut in Manchester: Virtual reality arcade concept DNA VR, which was founded in London in 2017, is to make its regional debut in Manchester this spring. The business, which is led by co-founder Alexander Tsyurupa, will open a site in the city’s Deansgate area, in Brown Street. Tsyurupa said: “We’re so excited to be opening DNA VR in Manchester, our first venue outside of London. People want new immersive experiences, and DNA VR’s leading technology enables visitors to enjoy thrilling gameplay. Whether you want a fantastical adventure, or to solve a series of mysteries, we have hundreds of games for every interest and passion.” The company launched its first site in Camden in 2017 and opened a second site a year later in Hammersmith. It opened its third site last year at the Battersea Power Station development. DNA VR caters for both solo and group bookings of up to 15 people, and some of the experiences are suitable for children as young as seven. There are four different kinds of experiences on offer, and with the VR arcade experience, you can play as many different games as you want within the one-hour time slot, with up to 11 players simultaneously.

Fitness franchise UBX Training set to open first UK site: A fitness franchise co-founded by four-time world champion boxer Danny Green is set to open its first UK site. The business was co-founded by Green and entrepreneur Tim West in 2016 as 12RND Fitness and has opened more than 90 sites in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, with more than 15,000 members. As previously reported, it is looking to expand globally under the brand UBX Training, including a £50m investment in a UK and Ireland rollout. Manchester business partners Ben Waldron and James Worrall are now set to be the first franchisees to bring the brand to the UK market, with the opening of 3,500 square-foot site at Manchester’s MediaCity later this month. “Reaching out to UBX was timely in that it was already on their radar to expand to the UK market,” Waldron told Insider Media. “Out of everywhere in the UK, we had already earmarked MediaCity as the place to launch such a unique concept, so it was a case of waiting until the time was right.” UBX Training said in January 2022 that it had agreed a deal with investment firm and franchise operator Empowered Brands, which is targeting 250 sites for the chain in Britain. The two companies said as many as 450 to 550 sites could be opened within the next 15 years, depending on demand.

Foodco opens first Jamaica Blue in Qatar: Foodco has continued Jamaica Blue’s international expansion with its first opening in Qatar. The Australian company operates Jamaica Blues in Australia, New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Singapore and the UAE as well as 18 in the UK. Its first Qatar site is in the Gulf Mall, Dohar. Foodco also operates 62 Muffin Breaks in the UK. Propel revealed in December that it planned up to 14 new UK stores in 2023 – including at least eight Muffin Breaks and four Jamaica Blues.

Friska founders sign up Twickenham Experience to new climate tech platform: Ed Brown and Griff Holland, founders of Bristol healthy eating brand Friska, have signed up the Twickenham Experience as the first clients to Zedible – their recently launched a climate tech SaaS platform. The Twickenham Experience is the joint venture between the Rugby Football Union and Compass Group, which operates the hospitality and conferencing functions at Twickenham Stadium. The initiative will see Zedible work with Twickenham in its carbon reduction strategy, specifically reducing its Scope 3 emissions from all food and drink purchased. Holland said: “We couldn’t have hoped for a better first client than Twickenham Experience. Their alignment with our mission of helping decarbonise the hospitality sector is incredible, and we have already seen their genuine commitment and enthusiasm in being an industry leader in a low carbon future.”

Knoops confirms site for northern debut as it seeks to become ‘global brand’: Luxury hot chocolate shop Knoops has confirmed the site for its northern debut, as it outlines ambitions to become a “global brand”. Propel reported earlier this week that Knoops would open its first site in the north in April, in Manchester, following next month’s opening of a flagship store in London’s Knightsbridge. The company has now confirmed the Manchester site as being a grade II-listed building at 68 Cross Street, which was once the offices of Eagle Insurance. Knoops executive chairman William Gordon-Harris said: “Expansion into the north of England is an incredibly significant step for the brand as I seek to lead our outstanding team with our global ambitions – starting first with a UK roll-out. Knoops is a true challenger brand and I see us becoming one of the fastest growing on the UK’s high street. I’m also confident that we are at the infancy of one of the most interesting retail stories of our age, and that Knoops will become a leading global brand within a decade.” Knoops founder Jens Knoop added: “Opening up in new locations across the UK is helping us to spread the message of Knoopology at a phenomenal rate. We’re creating a lasting impression in our current locations and already have many Mancunian fans of the brand from visits to other stores.” Chief executive Tori Nunn told Propel in May that Knoops is aiming for 100 UK stores by 2027.

Chef Mark Sargeant closes Folkestone brasserie: Michelin-starred chef Mark Sargeant has announced the closure of his Brasserie MS restaurant in Folkestone, Kent, less than a year after its launch. In an Instagram post, Sargeant wrote: “It is with great sadness that I am announcing the closing of the Brasserie MS. I want to thank all of my wonderful customers, employees and suppliers for supporting me since I opened as I could not have done it without all of you. I am extremely humbled by everyone who enjoyed my local Brasserie experience, and it is with much regret that I am not able to continue any longer and become a neighbourhood favourite in Folkestone. This is not an easy decision that has been taken lightly, but today’s tough trading conditions and the uncertain future have simply left me no choice but to turn the lights off and close the doors of the Brasserie MS. I opened to rave reviews in August, but sadly my backers don’t share my same vision of restaurant excellence. Rest assured, all of my talented team and trusted suppliers will be paid and any future bookings that have been confirmed and pre-paid will be compensated.” Sargeant, who spent 13 years working with Gordon Ramsay, was previously a partner in The Rocksalt Group until 2021, when he left citing “unresolvable differences” with owner Josh De Haan.

Taro opens sixth site in London: Taro, the Japanese restaurant group, has opened its sixth site in London, in Walthamstow. Taking over the old Manze Pie & Mash shop, the 76 square-foot site features 90 covers. Known for its bento, donburi, fresh sushi and sashimi, Taro also serves up a plethora of hot bowls of udon and ramen, which are all cooked fresh to order. A mix of sake, Japanese whiskey and shochu, alongside wine and Japanese beers, will accompany the food. The group was founded by Mr Taro, who visited London for the first time in 1979 and dreamt of bringing authentic Japanese cuisine and culture to the city. In 1999, he opened the first Taro restaurant on Brewer Street, with further sites subsequently opening in Balham, Kennington, Finchley Central and Pimlico. Taro said: “Opening in Walthamstow has been on the cards for a while and taking over the old Manze Pie & Mash shop is perfect for Taro. We’re so excited to welcome in the people of Walthamstow to dine in our TaishuShokudo (an everyday dining room in Japan).” Meanwhile, street food concept The Beefsteaks is set to open a new site in the former Manze’s site in Islington. Manze’s shut its shop, in Chapel Market, in 2017, and it has now been taken over by Beefsteak’s Alex Pashby, who will be reopening it as a “low-intervention wine bar selling British small plates”. Pashby will initially run the site as a “kitchenless pop-up” but plans to eventually upgrade it to a traditional steakhouse. 

Black Sheep Brewery to host new Leeds site for Yorkshire better burger brand: Black Sheep Brewery will host a new Leeds site for Yorkshire better burger brand Slap & Pickle, at its taproom in the city. Slap & Pickle, which was founded in Leeds in 2018, has been without a home in the city since two of the venues it operated from closed before Christmas. The company also has sites in London, Manchester, Sheffield and Hebden Bridge, offering burgers produced from 40-day dry-aged Swaledale beef and loaded fries. It will now have a presence in Leeds once more after finding a new home at the Black Sheep Tap & Kitchen, offering both dine in and delivery options, reports Bdaily. The taproom is one of four pubs owned and operated by Black Sheep, which also has a visitors centre bar and restaurant within its brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. Charlene Lyons, chief executive of Black Sheep Brewery, said: “We’re really excited to welcome Slap & Pickle to the Black Sheep Tap & Kitchen. It’s an exceptionally good fit for our business and a great example of two creative and innovative Yorkshire businesses coming together to boost Leeds’ amazing hospitality offering.” James Tabor, founder and owner of Slap & Pickle, added: “We were always hopeful we’d find a suitable venue in our home city, and the Black Sheep Tap & Kitchen is the perfect home for Slap & Pickle. We love Black Sheep Brewery; there’s lots of alignment between our two brands and a shared vision on plans for growth.”

Swedish hotel investment company acquires Leeds hotel for £53m: Swedish hotel investment company Pandox has acquired The Queens Hotel in Leeds from real estate investment company Aprirose. The sale of the 232-room business and leisure hotel includes both the property and hotel operations, with an agreed sale price of £53m representing a stabilised yield of more than 9%, reports Bdaily. The hotel has, in recent years, undergone a major renovation, including the addition of 17 bedrooms and a repositioning of its restaurants and bars. Aprirose chief executive Manish Gudka said: “We are pleased to have executed the sale of this asset to deliver on our strategy for the property. Having followed our investment with a substantial and carefully considered capital expenditure programme, we have created value and generated a good return for our investors. The hotel and leisure sector remains an important focus for our business, and we continue to look for opportunities to deploy our capital in high quality, well-located buildings in growth areas.” Aprirose’s hotel management company, Almarose, currently manages 20 properties within the QHotels Collection portfolio that has Delta Hotels by Marriott, DoubleTree by Hilton, Mercure branded properties and 14 individual hotels.

Fattal Group acquires Brighton’s The Grand hotel: Fattal Group, owners of Leonardo Hotels, has acquired The Grand in Brighton. The group, which owns two other hotels in the city, said it plans to invest heavily in revamping the rooms and facilities and is committed to maintaining the hotel’s “iconic status”. Opened in 1864, the seven-story hotel features 201 rooms, including ocean-view bedrooms and luxurious suites, a restaurant and bar and dedicated meeting and banquet space. Jason Carruthers, managing director of Leonardo Hotels, said: “We are delighted to add another historic and iconic hotel to our growing portfolio of luxury hotels. It is a consistently high-performing hotel in a strategic location with a highly engaged workforce, which means it is an ideal fit with our broader portfolio. We look forward to working with the Grand team to build on their past successes and continue to improve the great experiences and service they continue to provide to their guests.” In October last year, the Fattal Group acquired the former Le Méridien hotel on Piccadilly, with plans for a £90m makeover. In total, Leonardo operates 52 hotels across the UK and Ireland.

Boparan Restaurant Group to open Restaurant Hub at Sevenoaks Sainsbury’s: Boparan Restaurant Group – the owner and operator of brands including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s, Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner – is opening a site for its The Restaurant Hub concept in partnership with Sainsbury’s, in Sevenoaks. The venue in Otford Road will house Caffe Carluccio’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Slim Chickens, Ed’s Easy Diner and Harry Ramsdens, in collaboration with Deep Blue Restaurants, reports Kent Live. The first Restaurant Hub under the partnership launched in 2021 at the Sainsbury’s superstore in Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Middlesbrough operator looks to double up with leisure venue featuring golf simulators: Middlesbrough operator Dovecot is looking to double up in the town with a new bar and leisure venue featuring golf simulators. The company has been given the go-ahead by Middlesbrough Council to convert the former YMCA premises in Captain Cook Square. Dovecot, which runs a licenced premises in Linthorpe Road, said the venue, which would also have a rooftop terrace, would offer drinks from around the world and a small plates menu. The company plans to invest between £750,000 and £1m in the site, which would include pool or snooker “if demand calls for it”, reports Insider Media.

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