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Tue 28th Feb 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

More than eight in ten consumers planning UK hotel stay in 2023, younger customers likely to order food for delivery as F&B offer ‘doesn’t meet need’: More than eight in ten consumers are planning to stay in a UK hotel in 2023, according to the latest GO Technology report from hospitality technology provider Zonal and CGA by NielsenIQ. The survey of more than 2,000 UK consumers showed nearly half (44%) will avoid hotel stays overseas due to cost-of-living increases. A further 39% said they’d be “staycationing” simply because they would prefer to travel within the UK rather than abroad this year, up 12% from 2022. Furthermore, for consumers choosing to holiday in the UK, it appears the frequency of their stays will increase, with just under a third of consumers (28%) planning to stay at a domestic hotel more than once this year. While half of consumers surveyed state they will stay in hotels the same amount as before the pandemic, a significant number (33%) of 18 to 34-year-olds have increased the frequency of their visits, with 23% visiting a UK hotel weekly. Nearly half (48%) of consumers plan to stay at a UK hotel for a weekend break rather than a holiday (31%). When it comes to younger consumers in particular, they are likely to plan much shorter visits to a UK hotel, with 27% saying that they would use a hotel for a day trip, driven by access to amenities such as a restaurant or bar, spa, gym or swimming pool. A third said great and easy-to-find online menus (34%) and positive reviews (34%) would encourage them to pre-book a restaurant table in a hotel, but nearly half (47%) would be encouraged by a discount. Nearly two thirds (64%) of 18 to 34-year-olds said they are likely to order food for delivery, compared with 13% of those aged 55-plus, often because the price, quality or variety of food that is available in hotels doesn’t meet their needs. Looking at drivers behind consumers’ decisions to stay at a UK hotel, price (66%) and location (61%) are at the top of their considerations. Oakman Group sales manager says one silver lining of pandemic is consumers see a holiday in the UK ‘as a real choice again’ – see Industry News 
 

Industry News:

Nisha Katona to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Nisha Katona, founder of Mowgli, 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”. Katona will speak to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about the next stage of the brand’s growth, opening in London, putting people at the core of the business, and her hopes and fears for the sector. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Updated Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage released today, New Openings Database to follow on Friday: The next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Tuesday, 28 February), at midday. It is the first database where full profiles of 650 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators are available in one place. It features more than 170,000 words of content, including 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 7,500-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Live music industry calls for business rates reduction and lower rate of VAT in spring Budget: The live music industry has called for Rishi Sunak to deliver a business rates reduction and a lower rate of VAT in the spring Budget. LIVE – a federation of 14 live music industry associations representing 3,150 businesses, more than 4,000 artists and 2,000 backstage workers – has said failure to do so would mean missing a “golden opportunity” to unleash the sector’s potential. Introducing the measure would, however, help it return to pre-pandemic levels, create jobs, generate investment and, ultimately, host more live events in every corner of the UK, the federation said. “LIVE, the voice of the entire live music sector, is calling on Rishi Sunak’s upcoming spring Budget to deliver on his personal promise to cut business rates and reinstate a lower rate of 5% VAT on tickets (in line with international comparisons),” chief executive Jon Collins said. “The live music sector is a catalyst for economic activity right across the UK, but many businesses are still reeling from the pandemic. Combined with rising costs, an uncompetitive tax system is holding back a sector-wide resurgence. The government has a golden opportunity to turbo boost the industry by reintroducing the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales in the upcoming spring Budget. This change would help return live music to full strength, protect much loved grassroots venues and mean even more amazing festivals, concerts, and gigs in towns and cities across the country.” Last week, figures from CGA by NielsenIQ and music booking platform GigRealm showed that pub landlords are increasingly using live music to counter the impact of rising costs. The research suggested that the number of venues hiring musicians is up by 82% on pre-pandemic levels, partly thanks to the introduction of music on days other than weekends.

Oakman Group sales manager – one silver lining of pandemic is consumers see a holiday in the UK ‘as a real choice again’, OTAs a ‘necessary evil’: Pete Saunders, sales and revenue manager at Oakman Group, has said one silver lining of the pandemic is consumers see a holiday in the UK “as a real choice again”. Speaking at the launch of the latest GO Technology report from hospitality technology provider Zonal and CGA by NielsenIQ that shows 81% of consumers are planning to stay in a UK hotel in 2023, Saunders said: “With the ease of cheap flights and the likelihood of better weather, people saw going abroad as a better choice. I think during the pandemic we have been reminded there’s a lot of beautiful places in Britain and it’s now a viable option, especially given the cost-of-living crisis squeezing the purse strings.” Saunders also said online travel agencies (OTAs) are a “necessary evil” for the majority of operators. “They are so successful and a go-to for a lot of consumers, particularly when they don’t know an area,” he said. “I think we can educate consumers to a certain degree that OTAs are not the best price. However, if I’ve got a Thursday in a fortnight’s time that I’m struggling to fill, then I’m going to use the OTAs.” When it comes to the use of technology, Saunders said the 40-strong Oakman Group is trying to find “what the right balance is” as the world “returns to a bit more normality” post-covid. “We are doing different things with different demographics and properties while making sure we are doing what we do best – providing the best hospitality,” he said. “It’s a bit of a suck and see approach.” Saunders said review sites are “either your best friend or your worst enemy”, adding: “When you have a constructive review, then you need to see it as an opportunity, learn from it and move on.” He also said Oakman did not see the budget hotel chains as direct competition. “As pub-restaurants with rooms, we are a different kettle of fish,” he said. “We feel we offer more of an experience at our venues.”
 
UKHospitality – new Northern Ireland Brexit deal ‘encouraging’ and addresses sector’s concerns: UKHospitality has welcomed the new Northern Ireland Brexit deal, saying it is “encouraging” and addresses the concerns of the sector. Prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen yesterday (Monday, 27 February) announced the ‘Windsor Framework’, aimed at fixing post-Brexit problems in Northern Ireland. Among the highlights are the introduction of a ‘green lane’ for good travelling there from Britain, which will scrap checks and paperwork. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The initial details of the new deal for trading in Northern Ireland are encouraging and appear to address the key concerns of hospitality businesses. The breakthroughs on easing trade flows, VAT, excise duty and state aid would seem to resolve many of the major sticking points raised by UKHospitality. The people and businesses of Northern Ireland should see the benefit in this as soon as this summer through the planned cut to alcohol duty in August, which previously would not have been the case. It will also enable them to benefit from any future cut to VAT, which we have consistently urged the UK Government to implement for hospitality.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, added: “We hope this will deliver a level of clarity and certainty for pub and brewing businesses in Northern Ireland, which has been needed for some time, although we recognise that some issues will inevitably remain. Allowing pubs and breweries across all devolved nations to benefit from reforms to beer duty is particularly welcome.” 

CBRE – set to be increased focus on using high freehold bases directly to raise significant sums: There is set to be increased focus on using the high freehold base of many pubs groups directly to raise significant sums to reduce debt and improve their balance sheets over the coming year, Simon Johnson, senior director UK pubs at CBRE, has argued. He said: “At the end of March, the first of the government-backed loans issued during the pandemic start to become due for repayment. Industry bodies have been lobbying the government ahead of the spring Budget for breathing space from lenders as they fear that debt repayment demand will coincide with poor cash flow (from the anticipated slowdown in consumer spending) and increased interest rates on other debts. This, in my view, is the tip of an iceberg of debt in many companies that have already seen bank borrowings stretched as cost increases have not been able to be passed on in full to consumers. In more ‘normal’ times, debt reduction has been a mixture of cash flow after investment and the disposal of non-core or tail assets. In some circumstances of particular need or opportunity, investors have stepped in with additional equity as witnessed by the equity raises from City Pub Group (April 2020), JD Wetherspoon (April 2020 and January 2021) and Mitchells & Butlers (January 2021) among others. Private pubco Oakman Inns also raised money from shareholders in 2022 – a total of £14.2m of which £8.3m was shareholder loans converted to equity and has announced it is looking for £5.3m more in 2023. However, we are not in normal times and debt refinancing, reduction or repayment is not as easy as it was pre or even during the pandemic. Banks have become more cautious. Tail or non-core assets have not seen the interest or pricing that might previously have been expected. So how are pubcos with debt issues going to reduce debt and improve their balance sheets? Firstly, I think there will be increased focus on using the high freehold base of many groups directly to raise significant sums via ground rents or income strips for long periods and at competitive interest rates. Secondly, the more premium assets in any portfolio have not, in my view, fallen in value as much as more prosaic pubs, and therefore both capital raise and multiples that are achievable remain attractive to reduce debt significantly.”

UKHospitality Scotland calls for immediate pause and review of deposit return scheme: UKHospitality Scotland has called for an immediate pause and review of the country’s deposit return scheme (DRS). 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. But with the scheme “marred by insufficient preparation” and the country now in the midst of a leadership contest, the trade body is urging an “immediate halt and review”. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “Finally, common sense is prevailing in Holyrood as the complexity and devastating impact of the DRS becomes glaringly evident. The flawed model, complexity and burdens of the scheme will put unnecessary pressure on both businesses and consumers, who are all struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. These cast-iron facts, alongside concerns around how it could impact trading with the rest of the UK, necessitate an immediate halt to the scheme’s introduction and I am calling on all leadership candidates to commit to pausing and then ordering a full review of this now discredited scheme. With all nations in the UK planning to introduce a DRS, we need to see a UK-wide scheme that works for businesses and consumers, as well as all our sustainability and net zero goals. Hospitality businesses are not against a scheme, but they want one that takes account of the excellent rates of recycling across our sector and targets resources where DRS can make a difference to littering and sustainability targets. The current iteration does none of that, which is why a full review is now essential.”

New harassment laws will ‘turn business owners into banter police’: New laws will turn restaurant owners, hoteliers and pub landlords into “banter police”, ministers have been warned. The Telegraph reported the government is introducing new legislation aimed at protecting employees from harassment in the workplace. But critics fear the change will have far-reaching consequences for free speech and will lead to employers having a “legitimate legal interest in policing what members of the public say”. An amendment to the Equality Act, backed by ministers, will make employers liable for third-party harassment – meaning from members of the public, as well as from their fellow staff members. Under clause one of the Bill, employers will be required to take “all reasonable steps” to protect their employees from harassment of any kind, and failure to do so will leave them vulnerable to being sued by their employees in the Employment Tribunal. Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, has written to Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, to urge her to change course. He explained under the new laws, a member of staff in a pub who is offended by “overhearing some banter between customers” could bring a case for “unwanted conduct” under the Equality Act. In a letter to Badenoch, he said “consequently, publicans will have to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to protect their employees from ‘harassment’ of this type, from sticking up notices saying ‘No Banter’, to employing bouncers to police customers’ conversations. These are additional costs that will push many pubs into liquidation”.
 

Company News:

London fresh salad concept set to open third site, plans to grow to five over next year and ‘follow similar expansion path in 2024’: London fresh salad concept Urban Greens is set to open its third site next month, and is planning to grow to five over the next year before “following a similar expansion path in 2024”, Propel has learned. Former university friends Rushil Ramjee, Houman Ashrafzadeh and Yannis Drivas launched the concept in 2019, and having tweaked and honed the offer, are now ready to roll it out. In mid-March they will open their first site in the City, in the St Paul’s One New Change development, building on their existing sites at St James’s Park and Canary Wharf. Having previously worked in corporate roles, the trio found options for stodge-free desk-based lunches were limited, and that pre-made, leaf-based salads were lacking in flavour. Spread across Europe – Ashrafzadeh in Stockholm, Drivas in Athens and Ramjee in London – they would spend weekends travelling to each city to work on their business plan and develop recipes, incorporating highlights from the local food scenes. “The short to medium term expansion plan is to firstly concentrate on the capital for now,” Ramjee, who previously worked in asset management, told Propel. “We feel there is enough of a demand in London, and given we all met in London, it’s something we want to concentrate on. We would like to have five sites by this time next year and plan to follow a similar expansion path in 2024. If someone thinks ‘salads in London’ we want them to think Urban Greens.” The company is committed to using fresh, seasonal ingredients, which are locally sourced where possible, with each store offering just 12 menu choices. Nothing is pre-made, with customers choosing bowls such as Gogosan or Jakarta and watching every order made up, all in compostable or 100% recyclable packaging. Ashrafzadeh gave up his job as a corporate management consultant in Stockholm while Drivas works in pharmaceuticals. The salads range in price from £8.85-£12.85.
 
St Austell strengthens executive team: St Austell Brewery has appointed former Wilko group HR director Kate Price as people director, Propel has learned. Price, who has 20 years of experience in the HR sector, including previous roles at Unilever, Molson Coors and Boots, will join St Austell in May. The brewery has also promoted Laura McKay, who has been with the business for seven years, from head of marketing for beer and brands to marketing and communications director. Kevin Georgel, chief executive at St Austell Brewery, said: “In recent months, we have been considering how to further improve the capability, diversity and alignment of our executive team to support our growth ambitions for the future. We are therefore delighted to be welcoming Kate, who will bring a huge amount of expertise and experience to our business. At St Austell, we are passionate about nurturing talent and providing opportunities for internal progression, so we are pleased to be promoting Laura to this much-deserved senior leadership position. I am very confident this will enable us to move forward with even greater momentum throughout 2023 and beyond.” It follows the appointment of Phillip Dainton as finance director earlier this month. Last year, Paul Harbottle was brought in as commercial director and Andrew Turner promoted to chief operating officer.
 
Kaspas founder set to open third UK Doner & Gyros site next month: Kaspas founder Azhar Rehman, who also owns the UK, Ireland and European master franchise rights for Doner & Gyros, will next month open a third UK site for the street food brand, Propel has learned. Doner & Gyros, which originated in Dubai and also has a presence in the Middle East, US, Canada and India, launched in the UK in 2017 with a site in Aylesbury. A second site, and first franchise location, opened in October, in the former China Palace site at 43-45 Oxford Road, Reading. The brand is now heading to Rugby, Warwickshire, for its next opening, in mid-March. In December, Rehman told Propel he is looking to open eight-plus Doner & Gyros stores in 2023 and had sold 50 UK territories. He also said it would look to Europe “once we have mastered the UK market”.
 
Lane7 boosts management team with new people and marketing directors: Boutique bowling company Lane7, which is set to make its London debut later this year, has strengthened its management team with the appointments of new people and marketing directors, Propel has learned. The Tim Wilks-led business has appointed Rosie Swaffer as its new marketing director. Swaffer spent a year and a half as head of marketing at Patty & Bun, plus a brief stint as brand manager at State of Play Hospitality. She also spent 16 months as head of marketing at Meatliquor. Meanwhile, Thom Hall, formerly of Discovery Adventure Golf and Bill’s Restaurants, joins Lane7 as its new people director. Hall spent more than four and half years at Discovery Adventure Golf, including over three years as its head of people. He spent just over six years at Bill’s, including a stint as its lead training and development manager. Earlier this month, the owner of gaming and entertainment venue Level X announced it is to open two new London sites and make its European debut. The ambition is to open in Victoria towards the end of the year, with another as yet unnamed site also in progression. The company will also add a second site in Birmingham’s Bullring, which will be the group’s largest venue yet, adding to another imminent Lane7 opening in Bath this month. The group will also start European expansion with a site in central Dublin, also due to open before the end of the year.
 
Big Table Group lines up to further Banana Tree conversions: Big Table Group, the Las Iguanas and Bella Italia operator, has lined up a further two Café Rouge sites to be converted to its Banana Tree brand, which it acquired last year. Propel understands the Café Rouge sites in Reigate, Surrey, and in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, will be converted to the fast-casual pan-Asian brand later this year. The site in Haywards Heath was the pilot for a new Rouge concept that launched last year, which included the word Café dropped from the name. Last month, Propel revealed the first site to be converted to the fast-casual pan-Asian brand would be the ex-Café Rouge site in Wellington Street, Covent Garden. It will be followed by the Café Rouge at the O2 Arena. Big Table Group acquired the nine-strong Banana Tree brand for an undisclosed sum last September, with co-founder Anne Chow continuing to lead the brand as managing director. Founded more than 30 years ago by William Chow, Banana Tree started as a single site in London’s Maida Vale and currently operates six sites in the capital along with restaurants in Chelmsford, Milton Keynes and Oxford. Alan Morgan, chief executive of Big Table Group, said: “In keeping with what we said when we announced our Wellington Street and O2 Arena conversions, we’re reviewing our entire portfolio to make sure we have the right offering to suit each location. These conversions will allow us to see how Banana Tree performs in a new region outside London.” 
 
Former Roxy Leisure operations manager returns as MD, overseeing plan to almost double in size over next two years: Former Roxy Leisure operations manager Ben Warren has returned to the Roxy Lane and Roxy Ballrooms operator as managing director, overseeing plans to almost double in size over the next two years. Warren most recently spent five years as managing director at sister company Concept Taverns, where he was responsible for managing a £9m turnover as well as operational performance and new site opening strategies. His work at Concept Taverns resulted in the company growing from three to 11 sites between 2018 and 2022, with a long-term goal of 20 sites before 2025. He also grew its team from 35 to 185 and implemented a new head office team. He will now oversee growth across the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts, with the 14-strong business planning to add six more sites in 2023 and the same number in 2024. Warren said: “I have been familiar with the brand for a long time after serving as its operations manager from 2013 to 2017. We’re set for a very busy 2023 and I’m excited to be jumping straight in!” Roxy Leisure chief executive Matt Jones added: “Ben is bringing a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the role as well as plenty of passion for the hugely successful Roxy brand. With a busy year ahead with six openings planned, we’re excited to get stuck in with Ben and work on growing Roxy Leisure even further.” The group opened its second Birmingham site earlier this month and is set to open in Cardiff next month. It is also set to this year launch a new family bowling concept, King Pins, as revealed by Propel in December.

Red Oak Taverns acquires Telford pub: Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, has made its third acquisition this year, the Six Bells pub in Madeley, near Telford. Graeme Bunn, property and acquisitions director for Red Oak Taverns said: “This single site pub acquisition is a perfect fit with our current estate. It is operated by experienced pub operators, mother and daughter Gill Walker and Michelle Bayliss of the Little Pub Company, who have nine pubs, and we look forward to working with them as tenant partners.” Fleurets acted managed the sale to Red Oak Taverns, which increased its pub estate to 210.
 
UK bubble tea brand Cupp lines up four further Scottish sites after opening second Glasgow location: UK bubble tea brand Cupp has lined up four further Scottish sites after opening its second Glasgow location. The franchise brand, founded by Lee Peacock in 2012, made its Scottish debut with an opening in Glasgow’s Byers Road at the end of last year. It has followed that with a second site in the city, in Sauchiehall Street, and will next go to the city’s Southside for a third opening, in Victoria Road. After that, the brand’s Scottish expansion will move out of Glasgow and take in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh. The Sauchiehall Street site was Cupp’s 26th overall, following last month’s opening of store number 25, in Lancaster. Also in the pipeline are sites in Nottingham, Blackburn, Exeter and Guildford.
 
David Carter steps down as Pret UK people director: David Carter has stepped down as people director at Pret A Manger UK, after nearly 22 years with the business. Carter joined Pret in 2001 as a general manager and has held roles such as international head of HR and head of HR and recruitment during his time at the JAB Holdings-led business. He was appointed UK people director in August 2019. He said: “It has been an honour to be part of Pret’s amazing growth journey over the years and to watch the business and countless Pret people flourish. It has been a privilege to work in a truly people centric business with strong values that you can see being lived every day. There are two values I absolutely love and will always cherish: always strive to do the right thing in all that you do, and always ‘be kind, be honest and be generous’. For now, I am being kind to myself and taking some time away before I start my next chapter. Thank you Pret. Wishing everyone at Pret all the very best for the future.” Propel understands that Sergio Bachs, who has been with Pret for more than 11 years and is currently its global director of culture, has been promoted as Carter’s successor. 
 
Stonegate offers to change non-compliant rent review terms in circa 70 MRO agreements: Around 70 market rent only (MRO) lessees have received an offer from Stonegate Group to remove the upward only open market rent review from their agreement when combined with a retail price index (RPI) linked rent review. The Pubs Code prevents pub companies from offering tied lessees MRO terms that are not common in free of tie agreements and insists the terms must be reasonable. Where required in a free of tie lease, an upwards only open market rent review will typically take place every five years, or an RPI rent review will typically increase the rent annually. A statement from the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) said: “In response to PCA correspondence, Stonegate has acknowledged that it is not, and never has been, common to find these two rent review terms together in the same free of tie lease. Ei Group (before its acquisition by Stonegate) stopped offering MRO agreements with these terms in combination in 2019 as a result of expert evidence obtained in an arbitration. But since the first MRO agreements were completed in 2017, a number of them across different pub companies have entered the market containing both types of rent review. Stonegate has written to its lessees on those agreements to confirm it will not be enforcing the upwards only open market rent review and offering to remove it from their agreement. It has also offered a financial contribution towards legal costs for any who take up the offer. It has confirmed to the PCA that no upwards only open market rent reviews have yet taken place where agreements also have annual RPI increase terms.” The PCA said it has made clear to the regulated pub companies that they should not rely on terms which they know, or ought to know, are non-compliant as evidence of terms which are common in the free of tie market. It added: “Stonegate is the first pub company to acknowledge to the PCA that there had been previous non-compliance that was still affecting existing MRO tenants and lessees. The PCA considers that Stonegate’s action provides certainty to MRO lessees with RPI rent review terms and welcomes the steps it is taking to put this right. Stonegate will inform the PCA when its intended actions are complete.”

Michelin-starred duo set to open Edinburgh restaurant: Michelin-starred duo Brian Grigor and sommelier Glen Montgomery are set to open a new Edinburgh restaurant this spring. Chef Grigor and sommelier Montgomery will open eòrna on the city’s Hamilton Place in Stockbridge. They previously worked together under Michel Roux Jnr at the two Michelin star Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, while Grigor retained the Michelin star at Edinburgh’s Number One for four years. The pair will oversee all aspects of the restaurant – with no other chefs or front of house staff – aiming for a “pared back, intimate, yet sophisticated dining experience”. The focus of the restaurant will be a 12-cover countertop chefs table overlooking the kitchen, while diners will be served an ever-evolving tasting menu using seasonal ingredients and classic old-world wines. Among the dishes will be Belhaven smoked salmon with lemon puree, quails egg and caviar; hand dived Orkney scallop with oyster leaf and burnt apple; and loin of roe deer with salt baked celeriac and sauce grand veneur. 
 
Pure Leisure Group acquires Cumbrian holiday park from Leisure Resorts: Holiday park operator Pure Leisure Group has acquired Lakesway Holiday Home and Lodge Park, near Kendal in Cumbria, from Leisure Resorts for an undisclosed sum. The deal takes Pure Leisure Group to 19 sites. Situated in Levens, the five-star-rated resort has a mix of 300 lodges and caravans. Pure Leisure said it will be maintaining all existing facilities. The resort is 12 miles down from Yealand Conyers, Carnforth, where John Morphet founded Pure Leisure Group in 2004 after he sold his South Lakeland Caravans business to Legal and General Ventures for £100m, retaining the South Lakeland Holiday Village and starting from there. Morphet said: “The Lakesway Holiday Home and Lodge Park is a beautiful resort and we’re delighted to bring it within the Pure Leisure portfolio. It’s a great new asset and bolsters our offering in a county we know all too well with both our Fell End and Hall More resorts just 15 minutes’ drive away.” Morphet also owns Royal Westmoreland in Barbados and is investing £15m in a luxury highland estate north of Inverness.
 
Greene King pledges £1m to the Macmillan Cancer Support Emergency Grants Appeal: Pub company and brewer Greene King has pledged a substantial donation to the Macmillan Cancer Support Emergency Grants Appeal. It said that the first £1m raised by the company in 2023 will go towards helping people living with cancer with day-to-day expenses during the cost-of-living crisis. The charity’s Emergency Grants Appeal helps those living with cancer practical pay necessary expenses such as fuel to get to hospital appointments, or support with food and heating bills to aid recovery after operations. As a charity partner to Macmillan since 2012, fundraising efforts are ongoing in Greene King’s 1,600 UK pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK, including collection tins, fundraising events and personal challenges by team members. Nick Mackenzie, chief executive at Greene King, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is something that affects everyone in different ways, so it is vital that the support we offer to team members, customers and communities is as varied as possible, so people can find a scheme that’s right for their own personal situation. The funds are just the latest in the cost-of-living crisis support we’re providing to both customers and team members throughout 2023 and beyond.” Over the last few months, Greene King has also provided its team members and customers with a series of enhanced support initiatives and offers. This included an increased team member discount of up to 50% in all Greene King pubs throughout January, and in-pub team members being rewarded with free meals up to the value of £10. Hungry Horse also collected 10,000 unwanted toys for 150 charities as part of its second annual Toy Boxing Day initiative.
 
Hot Stone team to launch new concept next month, seeking new home for Rai: The team behind Islington steak and sushi bar Hot Stone will launch a new concept next month and is seeking a new home the one it launched last year, Rai. Kikabo, a new contemporary Japanese restaurant which will “blend traditional techniques with modern flair”, will open in Fitzrovia’s Windmill Street in mid-March. It is currently home to Rai, the “creative multi-course concept” created by Shrabaneswor Rai and Padam Raj Rai, which will close in the coming weeks. Rai itself was a rebrand, having previously been operated as Omakese Fitzrovia by the same team, who are now seeking a new home for Rai. As Kikabo, the 50-cover site will offer omakase-style boxes containing between six and 12 hand-crafted sushi and sashimi dishes per diner. Guests will be able to choose between two of the restaurant’s three course set menus, both featuring a kibako to start – which includes dishes such as seared butterfish with red jalapeño sauce; hand dived scallop with plum and rock shrimp tempura – followed by a main dish and a dessert. The mains will include grilled saba with spicy oroshi; 48-hour marinated grilled black cod with saikyo miso; and grilled aubergine with saikyo miso. Diners can also opt to go a-la-carté, selecting from a menu of sushi, sashimi, maki and carpaccio, as well as larger hot dishes. Before joining Hot Stone Group as executive chef and co-owner of its first restaurant in 2018, Padam Raj worked at several London sushi restaurants including Tsukiji Sushi at the Westbury Hotel, Roka, Nobu and Sake No Hana.
 
Freehold of Oxford pub let to Wells & Co on market for in excess of £1.23m: The freehold of The Oxford Blue pub in Oxford, which is let to Bedford brewer and retailer Wells & Co, has been put up for sale for offers in excess of £1.23m. Savills, on behalf of a private client, is marketing the freehold of 32 Marston Street. The property is arranged over three levels extending to approximately 3,150 square feet, with the main trading area on the ground floor fitted out as a modern gastropub. The property is let entirely to Wells & Co for an unexpired term of about 15 years at circa £53,300 per annum, subject to an open market review on 14 March 2023. The business will remain unaffected by the sale. Stuart Stares, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, says: “Despite the wider economic backdrop, we continue to receive good demand for high quality pub investments, particularly for rarely available properties that are let to national pub operators.”
 
Terry Laybourne to reopen Newcastle wine bar and restaurant: 21 Hospitality Group (21HG), led by restaurateur Terry Laybourne, is reopening his Newcastle wine bar and restaurant, St Vincent, after a three-year hiatus. Laybourne closed the Quayside restaurant on the eve of the covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, and while other venues within 21HG have since reopened, St Vincent remained closed. That will all change on Thursday, 9 March, when the doors to the Franco/Italian inspired restaurant, which originally opened in the autumn of 2018, open once more. Matt Clarkson returns as general manager, while leading the kitchen team is 21HG veteran Martin Malinowski. Laybourne said: “It feels wonderful to be finally re-opening St Vincent after such a long break. The hospitality sector has gone through a rollercoaster period these last two to three years. We haven’t stood still though during that period – opening Café 21 in Fenwick York and establishing the beer garden at The Broad Chare, as well as continuing our 21@Home collection service. We have been carefully managing and building our resources – St Vincent is the final piece of the jigsaw. Customers will be able to enjoy some old favourites they may remember from previous visits, plus, we’ve used the preparation time to freshen things and create some new, less familiar options. We will have a concise, ever-changing menu with a seasonal focus, quite often influenced by the punchy flavours of southern France and Italy that we all seem to love so much.”

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