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Wed 22nd Feb 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector starts 2023 with fourth successive month of year-on-year growth as sales beat inflation in industry’s best January for three years: Britain’s managed pub, bar and restaurant groups achieved like-for-like sales growth of 10.9% in January 2023, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals. The tracker – produced by CGA by NielsenIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK – has now recorded year-on-year growth (14.7%) for four months in a row and it was the industry’s best January for three years. January’s figure is also marginally ahead of the current 10.1% rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index. However, trading in January benefited from comparisons with early 2022, when some consumers stayed at home amid concerns about the Omicron variant of covid. High inflation means sales continue to lag pre-pandemic levels in real terms. Pubs carried the momentum they built over Christmas into 2023, with like-for-like sales 12.9% ahead of January 2022. Restaurant groups’ growth also reached double digits at 10.3%, but sales in the bars segment were down 3.1%. The tracker indicates a very strong month in London, as office workers and visitors continued their return to the capital. January sales within the M25 were 19.9% ahead of 2022 – more than twice the growth of 8.8% outside the M25. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NielsenIQ, said: “These figures show consumers remain eager to eat and drink out despite the mounting pressure on disposable incomes. It’s particularly pleasing to see such a strong bounce back in London, where sales have been hit harder than in other cities by covid disruption. Optimism for 2023 must be tempered by ongoing concerns about fragile consumer confidence and the debilitating inflation that businesses face in energy, food, labour and other key costs. But while hospitality faces challenges in the months ahead, it remains a dynamic sector with a bright long-term future.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “These numbers are despite train strikes hitting trade severely. Consumers and workers have worked around strikes and trade has shown resilience.”

Industry News:

Martin Williams to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Martin Williams, chief executive of Gaucho and M Restaurants, 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”. Williams will talk about rebooting the business, taking a leading role on sustainability, rising to the recruitment challenge and returning to the expansion trail. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing
Propel Premium subscribers to receive three updated databases next week: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive three updated databases next 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.
Feed It Back – customers eating and drinking out less but spending more when they visit: Customers are eating and drinking out less but spending more when they visit, according to new research from guest feedback service Feed It Back. Its latest Consumer Pulse survey showed the percentage visiting weekly has fallen in the past year from 25% to 19%, with that 6% drop shifting to once a month visits (up from 19% to 21%) or once every two to three months (up from 7% to 11%). However, customers are spending more on these fewer visits. Just under three out of ten customers said a celebration is the key reason for making an advanced booking, with seasonal events coming in just behind at 12%. For special occasions, 45% of consumers are spending £40 or more, and in London, this increases to six in ten customers. The survey revealed the 18 to 34-year-old market is more interested in seasonal events and dates and are using TikTok to find the best places to go. Family meals are the key driver to making a booking for the 35 to 54 age range. They’re more likely to research a venue on Facebook than the older or younger generations, but Google is still the number one platform to search for new places to frequent. With less financial pressure, the 55-plus age group is keen to dine out more and also much more likely to check TripAdvisor reviews before visiting. More than half (52%) of all consumers said they would be happy to pay a deposit – if it was returned when cancelling with more than 24 hours’ notice. Only 2% felt a non-refundable deposit was acceptable. Mobile ordering and pay is still dividing customers. Bars, competitive socialising venues and wet-led businesses saw a much higher share of customers saying they would order and pay on a mobile device (65%) while pub dining and restaurants saw their share nearer the 40% mark. When browsing a venue’s website, 22% of customers said it was essential to be able to view food and drink menus followed by instant booking (18%) and map and location details (10%). The study analysed data from more than 25,000 responses across pub, bar, restaurant and competitive socialising operators.
UKHospitality urges DRS administrator to disclose how many operators have signed up: UKHospitality has urged Circularity Scotland, administrators of the country’s deposit return scheme (DRS), to disclose how many operators have signed up to it. From August, every single-use drinks container sold in Scotland will be subject to a 20p deposit, which will then be refunded to consumers when they take it back to their local shop or return point. Circularity Scotland has announced £22m of cashflow support will be made available to Scottish producers to help them prepare for when the DRS goes live. UKHospitality Scotland executive director, Leon Thompson, said: “This late move is symptomatic of the entire DRS process, where decision-making has not been timely or understanding of business need. Frankly, with one week to go before registration for producers is set to close, this is a desperate attempt to boost the number of businesses signing up to be involved. UKHospitality Scotland members have been reporting that suppliers are highlighting a number of drinks brands and products that will not be available in Scotland after 16 August. This is bad news for those producers and our businesses who will not be able to offer the same range of drinks to customers. This also highlights that producers are thinking very carefully about registering with Scotland’s DRS, with its financial costs and liabilities. With hospitality businesses continuing to invest time and money in preparing for DRS, it is critical that Circularity Scotland is transparent on how many producers are currently registered. Four and half thousand producers have been identified by Circularity Scotland. However, there is speculation that the number of those registering are sitting well below this figure. It is hard to see how the scheme can operate without a critical mass of producers involved.”

JD Wetherspoon donates more than £200,000 to fund front-line healthcare apprenticeships: JD Wetherspoon has invested in the health and care sector through a £200,000-plus donation to home healthcare provider Cera, as part of the Apprenticeship Levy. Cera has been awarded the funds to spend by April on front-line apprenticeships by Wetherspoon. The funds will cover the recruitment, training, and deploying of 68 adult care apprentices, to achieve between a level 2 (adult care worker) and level 5 (leader in adult care) diploma in care. Each level, funded by Wetherspoon’s donation, will include the apprenticeship standards plus an industry-recognised qualification, chosen by individuals depending on their area of specialisation. To date, more than £100,000 of Wetherspoon’s donation has already been allocated. Cera delivers services on behalf of more than 100 local authorities and 75% of NHS integrated care systems – equivalent in capacity to 50 NHS hospitals. This is the first time that Wetherspoon has donated to Cera, with the potential for further investment in the future to fund more apprenticeships in care. In choosing Cera to receive its Apprenticeship Levy, Wetherspoon said is recognising that care is a highly-skilled sector that requires the appropriate funding to train staff and provide excellent career development opportunities. Annabel Nash, chief people officer at Cera, said: “This sizeable donation will go a long way in growing the talent pool and attracting new recruits to a rewarding, lifelong career in care.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing hospitality group seeking an interim group financial controller. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The ideal candidate will be a well-rounded and experienced financial controller who’s able to provide leadership. Your responsibilities will include leading the financial teams across two divisions; supporting the senior leadership team with the financial impact of strategic decision making; managing and co-ordinating the annual corporate business plan and budget process; overseeing payroll, cash flow management, ledgers, VAT return, Companies House filings, budgeting, preparation and overall cost control, with support of the team; and supporting the director of finance to develop and evolve financial practices as the business grows significantly.” The salary will be from £75,000 to £90,000 depending on experience, with the very strong likelihood of a transition to permanent status after six months. The position in based in Watford, Hertfordshire. For more information, email

Company News:

Birmingham operator who launched street food brand as tribute to late father aiming for 30 UK sites followed by overseas roll-out: A Birmingham operator who launched an Indian street food brand as a tribute to his late father is aiming for 30 UK sites by 2025, followed by an overseas roll-out. Hasnain Siddiqui founded Chai Green in 2020 after his father, a popular florist in the city who was forever giving back to the community, sadly died from covid. Hasnain, a chartered accountant who had formerly operated two branches of a piri piri franchise brand in Birmingham, opened his debut Chai Green site later that year. This was followed by a second flagship Birmingham site in October 2022, and a first franchise site, in Cardiff, in December 2022. “I initiated the concept on a piece of paper but nothing materialised, but after dad passed away, I thought it was something we should do in his memory,” Siddiqui told Propel. “Not just for commercial purposes, but also for the greater good – maybe not so much when we’re small, but once we have 40-50 outlets, the levels we’re able to give back to the community will rise too. We’ve got another two or three sites in build stages, we’re going through fit-out for Sheffield, which should be open in the next three to six months. We’re also looking to open another company store in Birmingham, so we should have five open by the middle of this year. We’ve signed a couple of franchises in London and are just looking for some properties to mark our footprint nationally. Beyond that, we have a franchise in Glasgow and have finalised a site that is at legals, with a similar site in Manchester as well. If we can have eight stores open or in build by the end of the year, we will have done well. I would like to get to 30 in the next two to three years, and then look as to whether we go from 30 to 50, and then expand internationally. Our focus is on finding multi-site franchisees within the hospitality industry as they understand the risk and market dynamics. We hope to have another ten signed up by the end of 2023 who we can put into business the following year. I promised myself I would only have one company store but got excited into opening another because of the location and have now been tempted into a third, so I think they will keep coming. But I will keep those ones local and expand beyond Birmingham through franchising. We want to target each major city, definitely Yorkshire and the outer ring of London around the M25. We’re in talks with many potential franchisees, but finding the right candidate is important for us. I am excited about the future prospects of the brand and the food industry as a whole.”

Subway UK & Ireland appoints Kirstey Elston as marketing director: Global sandwich chain Subway has appointed Kirstey Elston, formerly of Costa Coffee, as marketing director for its circa 2,300-strong UK and Ireland business, Propel understands. Elston left Costa at the end of last year after 15 years with the company. In that time, she spent three years as the brand’s global marketing director for Costa Express, and the past two as UK marketing director for Costa Coffee. At Subway, she will lead its marketing, digital, and CRM and new product development functions. Last week, Subway confirmed it was going through a sale exploration process and said there is “no indication of timing or assurance that a sale will occur”. Last month, it was revealed the circa 37,000-strong brand had retained advisers to explore a sale, which could value Subway at more than $10bn (£8.2bn). Subway is being advised by JP Morgan on the sale exploration and said it will not be making any further comment until the process is completed.
Ex-Bird MD joins Game Changers Investments: Andrew Clover, the ex-managing director of Bird Restaurants, has joined Game Changers Investments (GCI), which backs the likes of Floozie, the all-vegan stuffed cookie concept founded by Kimberly Lin, and plant-based restaurant business Erpingham House, as its development director. Clover joins GCI after nearly two years as managing director of Barrel and Stone, the plug-in, high-quality pizza solution. Previous to that, he led Bird Restaurants for less than a year after being retail director at its parent company, Crown Partnership, which acquired the fried chicken and waffle chain out of administration in 2021. Two years ago, investment company Aplomado Hospitality acquired a stake in GCI to aid its expansion and that of its concepts, both nationally and internationally. GCI is also backing David Thompson’s Long Chim brand’s launch in the UK, plus the multi-floor, multi-concept venture at 3 Henrietta Street in London’s Covent Garden, in partnership with sector consultancy firm TGP International.
Dundas Heritable places four pubs on market: Glasgow hospitality group Dundas Heritable has placed four of its pubs on the market. Established in 1977 by the late Willie Smith, Dundas have built a portfolio of licensed venues, the majority of them being part of its tenanted estate. The four businesses for sale through Christie & Co are The Scarecrow, Kilsyth; The Viking, Glasgow; The Willow, Greenock; and The Boarding House, Howwood. The pubs are for sale on an individual, part or group basis. The freehold businesses will be sold with the current tenants in situ on varying leases, apart from The Viking, which is currently managed. Brian Sheldon, regional director at Christie & Co, said: “Dundas Heritable has put together a group of quality establishments, which will be of interest to both individual and group operators. We look forward to hearing from any interested parties.”
Merlin Entertainments to launch £2.3m The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse family attraction in Blackpool: Merlin Entertainments is to open a new family attraction on Blackpool’s seafront, featuring favourite characters from creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. In a world first, The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse will bring together six of the best loved stories to create an indoor play adventure. The £2.3m investment has been 18 months in the making. Developed in partnership with Magic Light and Blackpool Council, the attraction is set to open next door to Sea Life Blackpool in May. The new experience will join Merlin’s seven other attractions in Blackpool including The Blackpool Tower and Peter RabbitTM: Explore and Play. Donaldson and Scheffler are the picture book partnership behind bestselling books such as The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and Zog. In the new Blackpool experience, distinct play zones are inspired by The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Zog, The Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom and The Highway Rat. The attraction will include play suitable for children under ten, with a toddler play area specifically for those under three. Kate Shane, regional director for Merlin Entertainments, said: “This latest partnership with a globally recognised brand will provide compelling new reasons for visitors to come to Blackpool. The Gruffalo and other characters from the world of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler will be among brilliant company alongside our already strong cluster of family attractions on the resort.”
Westmorland back trading at pre-covid levels as it reports profits almost quadruple: Motorway services and hotel operator Westmorland has said it is now back trading at pre-covid levels. It comes as it reported turnover increased to £143,214,000 for the year ending 3 July 2022 compared with £77,187,000 the previous year as it benefited from the staycation boom. The family-owned business, whose sites include Gloucester services on the M5 and Cairn Lodge services on the M74 in Scotland, saw pre-tax profit almost quadruple to £9,265,000 from £2,465,000 the year before. To meet the increased “staycation” demand, the company is piloting a Quick Kitchen self-service kiosk, which it hopes to then roll out in other areas of the business. Coffee and gelato counters were launched at Tebay northbound and Gloucester southbound services. A total of £24.9m of bank borrowing was repaid (2021: £1.1m). In June 2022, the group completed a refinancing of its external funding facilities. At the period end, the group had in place two new term loan facilities that stood at £23.0m (2021: £23.4m) and a new revolving credit facility of £10m to support the company’s growth plans, which remained undrawn at the period end. A total of £5.3m (2021: £2.8m) was invested in the estate in the year. A dividend of £4,633 was paid (2021: nil).
Hampshire operators acquire former PizzaExpress in Alresford for second site: Glaister Inns, which owns The Three Horseshoes in the Hampshire village of Bighton, is set to open its second site. The business has acquired the lease of the former PizzaExpress premises in nearby Alresford. Glaister Inns, which was established in 2021 by Henry Glaister and Minnie Hawley, plans to turn the 3,770 square-foot property at 32 Broad Street into a high-end bar and restaurant called The Town House Alresford. The building will be split into separate trading areas with the front of the building serving coffee, breakfast, light-lunches and brunch. The remaining ground floor rooms will become a bar and restaurant. The rooms on the first floor will be transformed into private dining rooms and co-working space, which will be available for private hire. Glaister said: “We are excited to open our second venue and build on the success we have created at The Three Horseshoes.” Savills acted on the deal.
Cawley Hotels & Restaurants reports best-ever turnover in more than 30 years of operation: Cawley Hotels & Restaurants, operators of five venues across the west coast of Scotland, has reported its best ever turnover in more than 30 years of operation. It reported revenue of £10,237,909 for the year ending 30 April 2022, a 191% rise on 2021 (£3,518,530). This compares with £5,831,411 in the last full year before the pandemic (ending 30 April 2019). The company, which stayed profitable through the pandemic thanks to government support, also reported pre-tax profits of £2,172,840 compared with £382,594 in 2021. After profits, net assets increased by £1.68m to £6.55m. It received £43,699 in government grants (2021: £2,270,447). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). Director Alan Cawley, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said the directors are “extremely pleased” with the results, adding that it was the company’s highest revenue since its incorporation in 1988. He said significant investment was made in the year to refurbish Boat Yard, in Renfrewshire, as well as to maintain the other restaurants. He added: “The directors continue to seek improvements in the financial performance of the business through increasing sales, strong cost controls and an infrastructure that supports growth. The business will continue to invest any future cash generated and is open to further new venues as opportunities arise.”
Edinburgh chefs set to open second site: Edinburgh chefs Tomás Gormley and Sam Yorke, the team behind farm-to-table fine dining concept Heron, are set to open a second restaurant in the city. Skua, opening this spring, will offer a menu of small plates inspired by the seasons alongside cocktails, beer, spirits and natural and rare wine, curated by Heron bar manager Seoiridh Fraser. Located at 49 St Stephen Street in the city’s Stockbridge area, it will open Thursday to Monday, from 5.30pm until 12am. Gormley and Yorke will work in both the Heron and Skua kitchens, alongside chef de partie Aran Lowry. Gormely said: “Our food and drinks menus will be short and ever-changing, showcasing techniques and flavours that interest us from around the world while staying true to our passion for local and sustainable produce. We’re going to have things we want to eat on the menu – expect bold flavours, great tunes and generous hospitality.” Yorke added: “We’re adopting a whole carcass butchery approach for both Heron and Skua. We want to showcase often overlooked cuts which are just as delicious and help to reduce food waste.” The duo opened the Michelin Guide-listed Heron in 2021, having previously operated at-home fine-dining pop-up Bad Seeds.
Brighton chef set to open second restaurant: Brighton chef Isaac Bartlett-Copeland is set to open his second restaurant in the south coast town. Bartlett-Copeland, who learnt his trade in the kitchens at Brighton’s The Grand Hotel, opened a permanent site for his former pop-up, Isaac At, in Gloucester Street in 2016. He is now set to launch wood-fire concept Embers, with fellow chef Dave Marrow, in Brighton’s historic Lanes on 3 April. The 42-cover restaurant will offer Sussex produce, cooked over burning wood-fire, alongside “innovative cocktails”. A further eight covers will be located outside, under an awning, while Embers will also open an 18-cover back room in June. Marrow – who also worked at The Grand Hotel as well as The Dining Room at Deans Place Hotel, The Middle House Mayfield Hotel and Terre à Terre – will head up the kitchen. Dishes will include glazed lamb ribs with candied ginger and kimchi, furikake; smokey chicken leg with crispy skin, n’duja aioli and honey butter; and wagyu Denver steak with roscoff onion and coffee Hollandaise. Bartlett-Copeland said: “It’s always been our dream to open a restaurant together, and I’m so excited that this dream has finally been realised. We want Embers to be about big, bold flavours and the sort of restaurant we’d want to go to on our days off – it’s all about fire and friendship!”
Mondo Brewing Company to launch beer and pizza concept at Borough Yards: Mondo Brewing Company is to launch a beer and pizza concept at the Borough Yards development in London. Mondo Beer & Pizza will launch at the scheme on 9 March, joining the likes of Barrafina, Vinoteca, Burger & Beyond and Brother Marcus. Mondo Brewing Company was founded in 2014 by American homebrewers Todd Matteson and Thomas Palmer. Its independent craft brewery and taproom is situated a stone’s throw away from Battersea Power Station. Distrkt represents Borough Yards.
Macellaio RC rebrands Union Street site, offering new sustainable menu ‘using all parts of the cow’: Six-strong Italian restaurant group Macellaio RC has rebranded its site in London’s Union Street to Osteriadel Macellaio, offering “simple yet delicious Italian food”. It has come up with a new sustainable menu, using all parts of the cow, cooked by executive head chef Lello Favuzzi – formerly of Alan Yau’s Anda, Franco’s on Jermyn Street, The Wolseley and Corbin & King’s St Alban. Celebrating the “artisanal sustainability of Italian and British butchers, in a bid to fight wastage within the hospitality industry”, it will serve up parts of the cow that are rarely used, with cuts not often seen on menus. Highlights include arancino cacio and pepe; lard on toast; pane and mortadella; trippa accomodata and chicken liver paté. Founder Roberto Costa said: “I wanted to bring London a slice of my eating experiences from my home, offering a sustainable way of eating with a variety of choice of high-quality meat without any compromise at the most competitive price.” Costa is also planning to open a new seafood concept, as revealed by Propel last July, in London’s Canary Wharf, called Fish Game. He is also looking to next month launch the Matooro Academy, which will train and support young Italians looking to start a career in the sector.
North Yorkshire gastropub operator Three’s A Crowd to open new Leeds site next week: North Yorkshire gastropub operator Three’s A Crowd will open its new site in Leeds next Wednesday (1 March). The company, owned and run by John Quinlan, acquired The Reliance, which is one of the city’s oldest pubs, in a six-figure deal in January. The Reliance is now reopening following a refurbishment with all 20 of The Reliance’s staff retained and a further ten jobs created. Based in North Street and spread over two floors, the venue will seat up to 82 diners and will offer monthly events, tastings with locally sourced food and a bespoke wine list. Quinlan, who has a background in fine dining, opened its existing venue in West Park, Harrogate, almost four years ago. He said: “We’re honoured to be taking on The Reliance and feel privileged to be able to continue the legacy of the brand, while also bringing our hallmark Three’s A Crowd service and menu to the city.”
Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa opens skyline restaurant and bar at Battersea Power Station: Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa has opened JOIA, an Iberian restaurant and bar at PPHE Hotel Group’s new art’otel London Battersea Power Station. JOIA, meaning “jewel” in Portugese, comprises two distinct spaces, a 15th floor 85-cover restaurant and a bar on the 14th floor. The restaurant menu highlights Sá Pessoa’s culinary heritage and is influenced by the flavours and cooking techniques of Catalonia and Portugal, using the best of British and Iberian produce. The menu includes salted cod esqueixada with pickled red onion and orange; and grilled carabineiro prawns with orzo bisque and coriander. The bar offers cocktails and a broad list of Portuguese and Spanish wine and vermouth, with a particular focus on lesser-known producers. Sá Pessoa owns the two Michelin-starred Alma and the trans-Iberian tapas spot Tapisco in his native Lisbon, and he is the executive chef at the ARCA restaurant located in art’otel Amsterdam.
Pret opens in Leeds: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, has opened a new store in Leeds. Propel revealed last month that Pret has signed up Exultant Group, which is also operates a Pizza Hut Delivery franchise, as a franchisee for Yorkshire – with an opening in Leeds’ Woodhouse Lane lined up. The 4,510 square-foot site has now opened, on the first floor of the Merrion Centre in Leeds’ Arena Quarter, creating up to 20 jobs. Guy Meakin, interim UK managing director at Pret, said: “We’re excited to be bringing another Pret to Leeds with this latest opening with our franchise partner, Exultant Group, and we look forward to welcoming customers to the new Merrion Centre shop.” Mizan Syed, chief executive at Exultant Group, added: “We are delighted to be Pret’s newest franchise partner, bringing the beloved freshly made food and organic coffee chain to those across Yorkshire, and to be celebrating our first shop opening at the Merrion Centre.”
Wright Brothers partners with Japanese chef for make-at-home sushi kits: Wright Brothers, the oyster specialist and seafood wholesaler which operates three London restaurants, has partnered with Japanese chef and food writer, Yuki Gomu, for a new make-at-home sushi range. The collaboration is intended to make restaurant quality sushi more accessible and is available from the Wright Brothers website. Robin Hancock, chief operating officer at Wright Brothers, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Yuki to create this exciting range of sushi ingredients and to share her expertise and knowledge so everyone can have lots of fun and make incredibly delicious sushi at home.” Gomi added: “My mission is to educate and share how simple, nourishing and delicious Japanese food can be, and the new range with Wright Brothers means everyone can enjoy beautiful, restaurant quality sushi at home.”
North east operator set to open second site: North east operator Mark Jones is set to open a second site. Jones, who owns The Dirty Bottles bar and restaurant in Alnwick, has secured planning permission to turn a grade II-listed building in the Northumberland town into a “new and exciting venue”. Jones lodged plans with Northumberland County Council to refurbish and change the use of 28 and 30 Narrowgate in Alnwick, currently a disused cafe and hairdressers, into a mixed-use bar and restaurant with an outdoor seating area and retractable canopy. A planning statement said The Dirty Bottles has “become so successful that the applicant regularly must turn away diners because it is full to capacity”. As part of the plans for the new venue, the buildings would be refurbished and repaired to provide “a high quality, unique space”, reports Insider Media.
Glasgow Mexican restaurant concept set to open second site: Glasgow Mexican restaurant concept El Jefe’s is set to open a second location. The restaurant will open in Fenwick Road, Giffnock, creating around 20 jobs. The original El Jefe’s is located in Argyle Street, Finnieston, while sister spot El Camino took over the Nomad nightclub in Waterloo Street in December. El Jefe’s is co-owned by Dave Wade, who also owns The Parlour in Vinicombe Street, and business partner Jonathan Lessani. A company spokesman said: “El Jefe’s is a vibrant and fun taqueria and tequila bar, bringing the taste of Mexico to the Southside. Expect great cocktails, delicious food and good vibes seven days a week.”

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